The Elderly Are Falling More Often

Study sees 8% increase, but reasons remain murky
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2015 7:10 PM CST
The Elderly Are Falling More Often
In this Oct. 11, 2013, photo, an elderly man holds onto a signpost on the side of a road in Sydney.   (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

Elderly Americans are apparently falling more often, but researchers don't know why. A new study says adults aged 65 and up self-reported a noticeable increase in falls between 1998 and 2010, reports Eureka Alert. Queried every two years, the percentage of seniors who said they'd fallen at least once in that time rose from 28% to 36% over the 12-year span. Researchers figured on higher fall-rates as the population ages, but lead author Christine Cigolle of the University of Michigan says there's no connection. "We saw a higher number of falls across all age groups—not just the oldest—and that was unexpected," she explains. So why the increase? Maybe the elderly are engaging in riskier behavior or are reporting more honestly these days, the study says.

Or maybe they're suffering side effects such as dizziness from psychiatric and cardiovascular medications. Another study of nearly 200,000 older adults found that those on atypical antipsychotics were more likely to take a serious tumble and suffer a bone fracture, Medscape reports. "These findings call into question the widespread off-label use of atypical antipsychotic medications" like quetiapine, risperidone, and olanzapine, the study says. On the bright side, the University of Michigan study found no increase in fall injuries. And experts are offering ways seniors can avoid falls, like disposing of throw rugs, lighting the path to the bathroom at night, eating and hydrating well, and boosting muscle mass and balance with proper exercise, HealthDay News reports. (Read about an 85-year-old fined for crossing a street too slowly.)

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