Invest in Your Feet and Fall-Proof Your Home

The soles of your shoes might be some of the most dangerous things in your home.

Betty was in her late 80s. As she was going about her normal routine, she started to walk down her carpeted stairs while wearing leather slippers with smooth soles. So smooth, in fact, they caused her to slip and tumble the whole way down.

She survived with some nasty bruises and a gash in her leg. She's one of the lucky ones.

Falls are the No. 1 leading cause of death for folks over 65. And according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more and more seniors fall every year.

One-third of Americans over 65 fall every year. And with the aging baby boomer population, about 10,000 folks now turn 65 each day. That means the number of falls – and the number of deaths from falls – will start rapidly increasing.

We've already seen a rise. In a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, between 2000 and 2013, the number of deaths from falls rose from 29.6 per 100,000 people to 56.7. Falls now account for 55% of all deaths from unintentional injuries. The next-largest cause? Car accidents, which account for only 14% of deaths.

Here's a look at the statistics...


And the CDC reports that every 11 seconds, an adult 65 or older receives treatment at an emergency room for a fall.

Overall, falls cause about 7 million injuries every year.

I've written before about how to talk to your parents about falls and steps you can take today to help prevent falls in your own home. Today, we're going to cover what you can do to make sure your environment is safe.

1) Invest in good shoes. As Betty learned, going around the house in socks or slippers with smooth soles can spell trouble. Well-fitting shoes with non-slip soles are a great investment.

Likewise, foot pain also causes falls. Things like bunions or diabetic pain make walking more difficult. Taking the time to find a good pair of comfortable shoes will not only help keep you safe, but will also alleviate your pain. Stores like The Walking Company offer foot measurement and evaluations for a range of shoes designed for older folks as well.

2) Pick up after your pets. While pets provide affection and relief from loneliness, about 86,000 fall injuries involve a dog or a cat, according to the Fall Prevention Coalition. But there are some things you can do to make your home safer without giving Fido away...

Make sure to keep your pet's toys and food bowls away from areas where you walk. Keep the area around their water bowls dry to avoid slipping on any splashed water. Try a mat under the bowl with a rubber bottom to keep it in place and sop up any water.

Obedience training also helps keep your dogs from jumping or running past you on the steps. And as the Coalition recommends, try a small bell on your pet's collar so you can hear it underfoot if you can't see it.

3) Don't forget the bathroom. Slip-proof the bathtub with a non-slip mat. These typically go for less than $20 on Amazon or at retailers like JC Penney or Bed Bath & Beyond.

And add grab bars for extra security. You can find them on Amazon if you're a do-it-yourself installer, or you can hire someone to professionally install some for you.

Finally, add a night-light. As we get older, our vision tends to get worse in the dark. Adding night-lights along hallways and in bathrooms can help make walking at night safer.

4) Don't skip the workout. Yoga and tai chi are low-impact ways to exercise. Several studies have highlighted the benefits of each in terms of improving balance and reducing falls in people over 65.

Many senior centers and local gyms offer classes. And you can read my write-up on yoga right here to get started with some easy poses.

Since her fall, Betty now wears walking shoes with non-slip soles. Following these four easy steps allows folks like her to live safely and stay fall-free.

Have a fall-prevention tip to share? Write to us at [email protected].

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
September 27, 2016