Fit and Fall Proof™
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare envisions older adults living safe, healthy, and independent lives. While falls pose a significant risk to the older adult population, there are preventive measures that can be taken that significantly improve older adults ability to remain self-sufficient, healthy, and independent in their own homes.
Fit and Fall Proof™ (FFP) is an exercise-based fall prevention program for older adults in Idaho designed to focus on functional exercises that reduce the older adults' risk of falling. Local volunteer leaders are trained to teach classes in their communities, held in places such as senior centers, community centers, churches, libraries and hospitals.
The FFP curriculum was developed by professors from Boise State University and the College of Southern Idaho. Using a combination of federal (Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant) and state dollars, Idaho's Physical Activity and Nutrition Program (IPAN) works with the seven public health districts to administer the program in Idaho communities.
FFP Classes Enable Older Adults to:
Maintain an independent, freely functioning lifestyle
Improve muscular strength
Achieve gains in flexibility, enabling older adults to reach and to bend
Increase balance and posture
Improve mobility, endurance, and walking gait
How FFP Classes Work:
Most classes are offered for free or at low-cost
Classes meet two to three times a week for 45-60 minutes
Classes run for ten weeks or longer; some are offered on an ongoing basis
Participants are encouraged to do an 8-foot timed "Up and Go" test on the first and last day of class to evaluate their progress
Fit and Fall Proof™ helped more than 6,687 Idaho adults stay fit, prevent falls, and form lasting friendships during Fiscal Year 2012 in more than 75 class sites statewide.
In addition, more than 3,100 participants recorded pre and post "Up and Go" scores. Findings reported for all attendees demonstrated a statistically significant difference in Pre- and Post-scores. New participants show statistically greater improvement in post-testing than seasoned participants.
- Unintentional falls affect one in three adults 65 years of age and older, at least once a year.
- Falls are the leading cause of accidental injury deaths among Idahoans aged 65 and older.
- Falls are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries (such as fractures of the hip, spine, forearm, and leg) and hospital admissions for trauma.
- More than half of all accidental injury deaths to the 65-plus age group were due to accidental falls (CDC, 2009).
- According to the CDC, in 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
- In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30 billion (CDC, 2010).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), many people who fall develop a fear of falling which may cause them to limit their activities. However, being less active leads to a reduction in mobility and physical fitness, which increases ones actual risk of falling (CDC, 2009).
WHO IS AT RISK FOR FALLS?
The death rates from falls among older men and women have risen sharply over the past decade.
- In 2009, about 20,400 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries.
- Men are more likely than women to die from a fall.
After taking age into account, the fall death rate in 2009 was 34% higher for men than for women.
- Older whites are 2.4 times more likely to die from falls as their black counterparts.
- Rates also differ by ethnicity. Older non-Hispanics have higher fatal fall rates than Hispanics.
WHAT CAUSES FALLS?
- People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.
- Rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men.
- Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.
- In 2009, there were 271,000 hip fractures and the rate for women was almost three times the rate for men.
- White women have significantly higher hip fracture rates than black women.
Most falls among older adults are the result of lower body weakness and problems with walking and balance.
Other risks for falling include:
- Taking four or more medications a day:
- Taking medications for anxiety, depression, mental illness, etc.
- These medications can cause dizziness, drowsiness, or loss of balance.
- Visual impairments:
- Common eye conditions include cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, which impair vision and can lead to loss of balance and falls.
- Chronic health conditions:
- Such as arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.
HOW CAN OLDER ADULTS PREVENT FALLS?
Exercise programs have shown success in preventing falls among older adults. Many programs have shown improvements in balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Other successful methods to prevent falls include:
- Exercise regularly: Exercises that focuses on strength, balance, and flexibility greatly reduce the risk of falls. Exercises that focus on increasing strength in the legs, core, and hips are the most beneficial.
- Home safety inspections: To remedy potential trip hazards, such as loose rugs and cords, slippery surfaces, unsafe stairwells, etc.
Installing safety devices: Such as grab bars, railings, and improved lighting.
- Vision checks: At least every two years, have your vision checked to catch and manage eye conditions early.
- Medication reviews: Regular reviews by your physician or pharmacist will help eliminate any possible side-effects or interactions of medications.
- Annual medical check-ups: Stay up-to-date on your health conditions and self-management and have any health questions you may have answered by your physician.
Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falls among older adults: an overview.