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Risk of serious injury, death from falling rises with age

Data shows that one-third of seniors who suffer a fall will have to restrict their activities of daily living and about 10% of those will suffer a significant injury such as a hip or back fracture.

DAVIE, Fla. – According to the CDC, every year about 36 million older adults suffer injuries from falls, some of them debilitating, others deadly, but there are ways to reduce the risk.

Beverly Zweig and Eva Schultz have been a part of each other’s lives for 36 years.

Zweig said it’s a connection that goes beyond shared memories.

“She’s strong, she’s funny, she’s bright, she’s vivacious, she’s just delicious,” Zweig said.

Though she calls herself 93 years “young” Schultz knows she has physical limitations.

Late in September, as she reached forward to open a kitchen cabinet in her Davie apartment, Zweig says Schultz lost her balance and fell back.

“It was not a good fall,” Schultz said.

The impact fractured a bone in her back which would be a devastating injury for anyone, but especially someone at her advanced age.

“I was very very worried,” Zweig said.

Dr. Juan Nunez, a geriatric specialist with the Cleveland Clinic Weston, said even with every effort to minimize the effects of aging, the cartilage in the spine degenerates and muscles become weaker, leading to a change in posture that increases the risk of falling.

“And by having a stooped posture our center of gravity moves higher so therefore if I’m leaning forward and I trip I will be more prone to falls,” he said.

Nunez said that data shows that one-third of seniors who suffer a fall will have to restrict their activities of daily living and about 10% of those will suffer a significant injury such as a hip or back fracture.

“There are intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors, there are certain things we can do and certain things we can’t unfortunately,” he said.

A recent study showed that movements such as Tai Chi, which support balance and flexibility, help protect against the risk of falling among seniors.

“Certainly in the end it’s a multidisciplinary approach,” Nunez said.

With the help of a physical therapist, Schultz is on the road to recovery.

“I am determined to get over it, and I try my best to look at the positive way,” she said.

“She’s bouncing back beautifully as she always does,” Zweig added.

As we age, geriatric specialists say medical evaluation is vital and should include checking vision, mental acuity, reviewing medications, and identifying potential trip hazards at home.

Simply asking an elderly loved one if they are afraid of falling can open the door to reducing that risk.


About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.