The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution, authored by Senator Susan Collins marking September 22nd as “National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.”
Older adults are the fastest growing age group in the United States, and the number is projected to increase from 46.2 million in 2014 to 82.3 million in 2040. In 2014, approximately 2.8 million older Americans were treated in emergency rooms after falling, and more than 800,000 were subsequently hospitalized. Tragically, more than 27,000 of them died as a result of their injuries.
The annual total direct medical cost of fall-related injuries for older adults is approximately $34 billion. As more members of the Baby Boomer generation reach retirement age, these costs could nearly double within the next five years. There were 195,000 older adult falls in Maine in 2014 with 35,000 requiring medical treatment or restricting activity for at least one day. The estimated total cost of falls in Maine is $245 million, including $158 million borne by Medicare and $64 million by Medicaid.
Seniors can take steps to protect against falls. The University of Maine, in partnership with RSVP Senior Corps, offers Bone Builders, an exercise program that improves balance and reduces falls. Bone Builders is offered in 10 sites throughout Maine including Bangor, Brewer, Deer Isle, Dover-Foxcroft, Ellsworth, Hampden, Newport, Milbridge, Old Town, and Stonington.
“Falls-related injuries have a devastating impact on older Americans, their families, and their communities,” said Senator Collins. “This resolution will bring awareness to the impact of this issue, and will also demonstrate some practical initiatives that can be taken to make falls amongst older Americans a far less common occurrence.”
This resolution urges relevant federal, state, and local organizations to educate seniors about ways they can reduce the risks that may result from a fall, including injury and even death. It also recognizes that evidence-based programs reduce falls by using cost-effective strategies, such as exercise programs, medication management, vision improvement, reduction of home hazards, and fall prevention education.