How can we reduce falls among seniors?

As the Canadian population ages, advocates have grown concerned about a major public health issue: falls. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 646,000 people die from falls each year. They are the second leading cause of death from unintentional injury after traffic accidents. And, as slip and fall lawyers know, senior citizens are at far greater risk of experiencing serious injuries from falls than the rest of the population.

Today, older Canadians account for about 60 per cent of total days spent in hospital. As the general population grows older, this figure is expected to rise.

Falls are dangerous to seniors for two key reasons. First, bones and muscles weaken as we age, making them more likely to break on impact. Women over 50 are especially at risk of developing osteoporosis, the clinical name for brittle and weak bones. Second, older people are more likely to experience complications such as pneumonia or infection.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, author Sandra Martin, who is over 65, pledged not to fall in 2019. She has fallen three times in the past six years and broken a bone each time: first her pelvis, then her elbow, and finally her shoulder.

Martin’s article outlines several initiatives to limit falls among Canadian seniors. One is the fall prevention program at St. John’s Rehab at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. The program has three components: a home risk-assessment visit from an occupational therapist; a pharmaceutical medication review; and an exercise program conducted under the direction of physiotherapists.

Other efforts include research under Professor Geoffrey Fernie at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TRI). His team is working on close to a dozen projects to reduce falls, including Winter Lab, a simulator that tests winter boots.

“Although we are the No. 1 research institute in the world for rehabilitation, on the basis of publications and citations, what we are most proud of is that everything we do has a practical result,” Professor Fernie told Martin. “We are driven to solve common problems, such as removing groceries and devices such as walkers from automobile trunks.”

In Ottawa, a group of seniors known as the Snow Moles is taking a more low-tech approach: members record sidewalk conditions around the city and report the data. Their work, which has earned praise from the city’s director of roads and parking services Luc Gagné, aims to improve sidewalk accessibility for vulnerable populations.

Unfortunately, most slip and fall lawyers believe seniors’ vulnerability to falls is a problem without a real solution. While individuals may take cautionary measures – slowing down, wearing effective shoes, avoiding icy or slippery surfaces – improving safety around the country will require massive public investment.

For now, personal injury lawyers are here to help accident victims. If you or a member of your family has been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact Will Davidson LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team of experienced slip and fall lawyers will provide guidance and representation as you work toward recovery.


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