That’s the anticipated cost of medical bills due to falls among the elderly by 2020, estimated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Falls aren’t just catastrophic for seniors because of the expense. According to the American Recall Center, one in every 200 falls in people ages 65 to 69 and one in 10 falls in people over the age of 85 causes a hip fracture. Of those with broken bones, 25 percent die within six months. As a result, elderly people are often so afraid of falling that they cease engaging in activities that were once important to them.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, as a variety of programs across the country are focusing on fall prevention.
Back in 2011, the CDC gave the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health a $1.5 million grant to study the effectiveness of fall prevention programs. They found that two programs sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging — Healthy Steps for Older Adults, a four-hour workshop, and Healthy Steps in Motion, an eight-week exercise class — reduced falls by 17 percent.
Another such program is the one offered by Wichita State University in Kansas. There, researchers assembled the Falling Less in Kansas toolkit, a free downloadable guide that allows seniors to assess their risk of falls and make necessary changes to prevent them.
The state of Ohio is also trying to prevent falls among seniors with an online program called Steady U. The website advises people how to arrange their houses to prevent falls — including tips such as keeping stairways clear, rugs securely attached to the floor, and adding night lights.
“We know that falls are the leading cause of injuries, ER visits and death,” John Ratliff, the Ohio Department of Aging’s Assistant Chief of Communications and Government Outreach told Hilary Young of the Huffington Post. “Coupled with the fact that our population is rapidly aging, it’s our responsibility to try new, innovative approaches to education about fall prevention to help our elders.”