September 22, 2017 is Falls Prevention Awareness Day, a great time to learn about the surprising relationship between two leading causes of injuries in older adults.
Falls and car accidents are two common causes of serious injuries in older adults, and can lead to disability, loss of independence and even death.
Experts note that certain common health conditions and normal changes of aging raise the risk of both falls and car crashes. It makes sense that reduced body strength and flexibility, balance problems, slower reaction time, vision and hearing loss, dizziness, and the side effects of certain medications could cause us to fall or to be less safe behind the wheel.
But on their own, falls also raise the risk of a car crash, say experts from the AAA Foundation, who recently announced that seniors who have suffered a fall are 40 percent more likely to be involved in an auto accident.
In the report, Associations Between Falls and Driving Outcomes in Older Adults, the researchers explained that broken bones and other injuries resulting from senior falls can make it harder for an older driver to be in good control of a vehicle.
Compounding the problem, seniors who have fallen often develop a fear of falling again, which tempts them to adopt a less active lifestyle. “When it comes to physical health, you either use it or lose it. Falls often scare people into being less active, but decreasing physical activity can weaken muscles and coordination and make someone more likely to be in a crash,” explained Jake Nelson, AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy. “Older drivers should find activities that enhance balance, strengthen muscles and promote flexibility. Even a low-impact fitness training program or driver improvement course can help safely extend an older driver’s years on the road.”
Seniors can also lower the risk of both falls and automobile accidents bv following their healthcare provider’s advice about controlling their health conditions, having their medications reviewed, and getting regular eye exams. They can enroll in a fall prevention class, as well as taking senior driver’s education lessons—isn’t it nice to know that each helps protect against the other!
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. AAA offers resources, driving courses and evaluation for older drivers. To learn more, visit www.seniordriving.aaa.com.