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Why are fatal falls increasing among seniors?

Americans are living longer and remaining active well into their senior years. However, too many suffer serious -- and often fatal -- falls. According to a new study based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics, fatal falls among seniors over 75 have more than doubled between the years 2000 and 2016. The rate rose from 52 per 100,000 to 111 per 100,000 during that period.

A scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that "people are living longer with conditions that in the past they might have died from." However, the medications they're taking that have kept them alive or at least provided some relief from conditions that come with aging can also make them more likely to fall.

For example, medications that lower blood pressure and blood sugar as well as those taken by people with Alzheimer's can impact balance, cause drowsiness and affect brain function. All of these things can increase the risk of falling. So can medications that many people take to help them sleep.

Seniors can minimize their risk of falling by ensuring that they have sturdy shoes and appropriate prescription eyewear. If a cane or walker helps you remain steady on your feet, use it. There's still a stigma associated with assistive devices. However, the most important thing is to remain safe -- not whether a cane or walker elicits stares or jokes or makes you feel old.

Doing some exercise that's appropriate for your age and health can help lessen your chance of falling. Many seniors benefit from tai chi, which is low impact and improves balance.

It's important to minimize tripping risks in your home. For example, uneven flooring and loose rugs can easily cause a fall and can easily be fixed.

However, you can't eliminate these risks when you go out. Business owners and other property owners, however, have an obligation to reduce the risk of injury for anyone of any age who is on their property -- either inside or outside.

If you fall because a property owner has neglected these responsibilities, don't assume (or let anyone tell you) that it was because of your age. There may well have been a hazard that could and should have been prevented. It's wise to find out what your legal options are for seeking compensation.

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