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16,000 Ohioans Walk 31,000 Miles for Older Adults
Ohio Ag Connection - 10/05/2018

Each September since 2015, the Ohio Department of Aging, through its STEADY U Ohio falls prevention initiative, has called on Ohio's communities to raise awareness of the epidemic of older adult falls by helping to take "10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls." One in three older adults will fall this year and falls are the leading cause of injury-related ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths among Ohioans age 60 and older. This year, community partners hosted 106 events and groups around the state and 16,034 individuals logged 31,273 miles, or 78.2 million steps, for the cause.

"It has been exciting to watch this campaign grow throughout the years, but this year exceeded even our best expectations as record numbers of communities and organizations embraced the cause of preventing older adult falls in some exciting ways," said Beverley Laubert, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, which operates the STEADY U Ohio initiative. "Nearly twice as many groups accepted the challenge, and we were able to reach more than three times as many Ohioans with the message that falls are not a normal part of aging, and that most falls can be prevented. We are truly grateful to every Ohioan who participated."

While older adults make up about 16 percent of our population, they account for more than 85 percent of fatal falls. An elder is injured in a fall every five minutes on average, and two older Ohioans are hospitalized each hour. Sadly, three older Ohioans will die today because of a fall-related injury. Medical costs alone for falls in Ohio total $1.1 billion. Work loss and other expenses add another $800,000 to that bill. That breaks down to $5.2 million each day.

Regular physical activity is one of the most basic things older adults can do to prevent falls, which is why walking is the focus of this annual event. Throughout September, in observation of National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, the STEADY U Ohio initiative (www.steadyu.ohio.gov) encouraged local organizations, business and groups to organize local walking events. Events and groups ranged in size from two people to more than 3,500. Some focused on the fitness walk, while others added health fairs, presentations and more.

This year's "10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls" partners included area agencies on aging, senior housing providers and residents, hospital systems, local health departments, senior centers, state agencies, local school districts, businesses and more. Settings included parks, downtown streets, farmers' markets, business parking lots and more, even the Toledo Zoo. Participants were provided information about falls prevention and encouraged to visit the STEADY U Ohio website for prevention tips and resources, including a falls risk self-assessment and information about "A Matter of Balance," an evidence-based falls intervention available around the state.

"The first step was to bring people together and jumpstart the conversation in our communities. Now, it's time to build on that success by promoting proven strategies to prevent falls in our homes, our businesses and our communities, all year long," Laubert added.

Decreased muscle mass, vision and hearing decline, medical conditions and joint pain are some of the age-related changes that can increase falls risks. However, minor changes to the three H's - home, health and habits - can offset these risk factors:

- Remove or secure throw rugs; improve lighting especially near stairs; install grab bars in the bathroom; rearrange the home to make frequently used items easier to reach.

- Ask your doctor about a falls risk assessment and talk about medicines you take and whether they increase your risk for falls; have your hearing and vision checked annually.

- Stay active to build muscle strength and improve balance; slow down and think through tasks; stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet that includes calcium-rich foods; enroll in a community-based falls prevention program, such as "A Matter of Balance."

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