Many seniors who fall end up with broken bones. The cause of the broken bone is often osteoporosis – an age-related condition where bones lose their density or thickness, as well as their strength.

A decrease in bone density is part of the normal aging process.  For both women and men, bone density reaches its peak around age 25, and it starts to decline around age 35. Since few people have detectable symptoms, they often experience the trauma of a broken bone even before learning that they have osteoporosis. The most common osteoporosis-related bone fractures are the spine, hip and wrist.

Although osteoporosis has no known cures, decreasing the risk of falling will lessen the risk of fractures.  With this in mind, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control suggests that seniors:

  • Begin a regular exercise program: Many who fear falling assume they should minimize movement. Ironically, this often leads to muscle weakness and resulting falls. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, physical activity is the only way to simultaneously improve muscle mass, muscle strength, balance and bone strength. Activities such as housework, walking, and gardening can improve muscle strength. However, a regular, structured program that includes weight-bearing and strength-building exercises can provide even greater improvement in muscle mass, strength, balance and bone density.
  • Have a health care provider review your medicines: Certain medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – may cause symptoms like dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness-of-breath that may impact one’s ability to stay physically balanced.  To work out a proper fall-prevention plan, the treating physician should know all medications that the patient takes.
  • Have your vision checked: Seniors should have their eyes examined at least once a year.   Besides experiencing normal vision changes, seniors are more likely to have glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. The danger of falling increases when one’s ability to see is diminished.
  • Make your home safer: Since most falls occur at home, make sure it remains a safe place.  Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from pathways; secure loose rugs with double-faced tape; use nonslip mats in bathtubs and showers; and keep homes brightly lit.  As people age, their ability to see in the dark may weaken so small night-lights can help.

To obtain a copy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults,” click here.