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Tips to Prevent Falls for Seniors

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: March 3, 2023
Last updated: December 7, 2023

Preventable falls are one of the leading causes of injury and even early death for seniors. Despite this being a serious problem, there is no single cause for falls, and various factors can influence your fall risk.  

A simple set of strategies to minimize your fall risk can be one of the most critical tools in preventing an unexpected tumble. Here are five easy-to-remember tips to prevent falls in and out of the home.

Keep It Clean to Keep It Safe

A tidy home is good for more than just hosting guests; it may even prevent an accident.

Among the many causes of falls, accidents like tripping on cords, rugs, and dog toys (or dogs) or slips on slick floors are some of the most common. Cultivating a simple practice of cleaning up spills on slippery floors, tidying up clutter on the ground, or covering or removing appliance cords can remove hazards from the home.  

Bunched-up rugs or rugs without a non-slip underside are notorious for causing falls. Consider adding adhesive or removing area rugs from the home entirely. Similarly, installing a traction pad and grab bar in your shower or bath is a great idea, especially if you have a neurological disorder like vertigo or Parkinson’s or if you’ve fallen in the past.

No Surprises

If clutter is the cause of many falls, then poor lighting or unstable support surfaces are its partners in crime. It’s no secret that many of us have a harder time seeing as we age, especially in the dark. A poorly lit area, even if it is one you know well, can become dangerous when combined with any number of the hazards above.

Take time to audit your home for areas requiring nightlights, and keep a flashlight near your bed in case of a power outage. Solar-powered lamps are a great way to light outdoor walkways as well.

Suppose you are balance challenged or are living with chronic pain or injury. In that case, you likely know that having solid handrails on stairs or other stable support surfaces to rely on is vital to your safety. Have a child, grandchild, or friend do a walkthrough of your home to ensure that it is fall-safe and that all railing and support surfaces are adequately anchored in place.  

Stairs can be tricky, and multiple-level homes require greater caution. If you live in an older home or a home with many stairs, ensure the stair edges are solid, sturdy, and safe. Consider installing carpet or stair nosing (a grip-friendly edge) to your stairs if necessary.

Dress for Success

Although it may feel great to wear your favorite baggy sweatpants and a warm pair of socks on a Sunday, baggy clothing and socks can create a fall hazard, especially if your home has slick tile, linoleum, or wood floors.

Try to keep your feet, knees, and ankles free and clear from overly loose clothing. Consider purchasing a pair of house slippers with non-slip rubber soles to wear around your home.

Like many other parts of our bodies, our feet, and ankles tend to get stiffer and weaker as we get older, so wearing shoes with excessively high heels or thick soles can cause balance problems. If you are going to a nice dinner, consider bringing some flat-soled shoes to wear on the way home or if you encounter any unstable grassy or muddy areas.

Exercise in All the Right Ways

Many kinds of exercise are helpful for older people, but explicitly training the muscles in your feet, legs, and hips to help you balance can be one of the best things you can do for fall prevention.

Here are three of our favorite exercises to keep your balance solid and steady:

  1. Stand on one foot for time: once a day set a timer for 1-2 minutes and stand on one foot for as much of that time as possible. Repeat on both sides, and try using a folded towel under your foot to add an extra challenge.
  2. Walk the Line: Lay a 10-15’ piece of tape out on your carpet, then carefully walk heel to toe with your arms crossed over your chest. Repeat as many times as you want, and try to slowly practice the same exercise backward for an added challenge.
  3. Tip-Toe Walk: Pick a straight flat, flat area of the floor, and walk forward and back on tip-toes 3-5 times. If this feels like too much, place your hands and a stable surface while standing and lift your heels off the ground 10-12 times or until you feel your calf muscles working.

Always practice balance exercises near a stable surface like a countertop or railing when possible. Stop if you feel pain or discomfort. If you can, exercises such as walking or stationary biking, when done right, works wonders too! 

Visit Physioed.com for more medical fitness guidance including classes and other helpful information to keep you feeling good as you age.

Speak your mind

Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re not in a battle against falls on your own. If you have fallen, or have come close to falling, talk to your doctor or someone you trust to explore options if the ones above don’t seem like enough. A doctor or physical therapist is your partner in preventing age-related injury.

It’s easy to think that it can’t happen to you, but preventable falls happen every day and can be catastrophic. Protect yourself by being prepared and adjusting your surroundings to keep you safe for many years to come.

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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