Healthy Aging and Fall Prevention
Aging in a healthy way contributes to quality of life. For many older adults, a fall will lead to chronic pain and reduced mobility, resulting in a loss of independence and enjoyment of life.
- Are the leading cause of injury in people over 65 years old
- Account for 85 per cent of injuries resulting in hospitalizations
- Are related to 40 per cent of all nursing home admissions
Avoiding falls helps older adults stay healthy and independent longer. Most falls can be avoided by addressing home hazards, preventing misuse of medication, managing blood pressure problems and improving balance and movement through exercise.
Healthy Aging and Fall Prevention Services
York Region Public Health provides consultations, workshops and displays on fall prevention and healthy aging. Print resources for older adults and healthcare professionals on fall prevention and reducing the frequency, severity and impact of injury related to falls are also available. For more information please contact Access York at 1-877-464-9675; TTY 1-866-512-6228 or email @email
Fall Risk Self-Assessment
Falls are the main reason older adults lose their independence. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances are of falling.
For a more comprehensive fall risk assessment, read Your Guide to Fall Prevention. For fall prevention and group exercises, assessment, management and treatment and other resources in York Region, visit falls.centralhealthline.ca.
There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of falling:
- Physical activity
Exercises that improve strength and balance can significantly improve bone, muscle and neurological weakness. Weight-bearing activities, where you are up on your feet like walking, dancing, hiking, golfing, climbing stairs, bowling, gardening and jogging, can all help reduce your risk of falling.
Always check with your doctor before starting a physical activity program.
For more information about physical activity, visit Physical Activity or refer to:
- Medications management
Taking four or more prescription drugs can increase your risk of falling. If your pills make you dizzy, ask your doctor about changing the dose. Use the same pharmacy if possible for all of your medications and keep a list of all of your medications with you. A dosette or blister pack can help you organize your pill schedule and keep track of what you are taking.
- Assistive devices and mobility aids
Devices like wheelchairs, walkers and canes can reduce the risk of falling. Contact an occupational therapist or physiotherapist for advice about using a cane or walker. When walking with a cane, hold the cane on your stronger side – opposite to your weak or painful leg, ankle or foot. Step up on to a stair with your strong leg first, followed by your cane and weak leg onto the same step. When going downstairs, you should step down with your cane and weak leg first, followed by your strong leg to the same step.
- Healthy eating and nutrition
Eat a balanced diet with vegetables, calcium and vitamin D to keep you healthy and prevent osteoporosis. To stay hydrated, drink fluids often during the day. Water is your best choice but milk, juice, soup, tea and coffee also count towards your total fluids. It may also help to eat six small meals a day to maintain your energy level and reduce weakness, dizziness and tiredness.
Get help with eating well by following Canada’s Food Guide. Complete the EatRight Ontario Nutri-eScreen Eating Habits Survey to find out how to choose foods that will help you stay healthy and active.
- Home safety
Did you know that 50 per cent of all falls causing hospitalization happen at home?
To make your home safer:
- Remove rugs and mats that slip or bunch up
- Use non-skid mats or decals in your bathtub or shower
- Remove clutter in hallways, doorways, stairs or places you normally walk
- Keep electrical cords and telephone cords against the wall
- Repair uneven walkways outdoors
- Use proper lighting and nightlights
- Use grab bars or elevated toilet devices in the bathroom
- Take your time, don’t rush and be sure your pets are not underfoot
For more information on home safety, read Your Guide to Fall Prevention.
- Foot health
Always wear proper fitting shoes with good ankle and foot support. If you notice any infected toenails and sores, swelling, changes in your feet, or if you need help cutting your toenails, consult a health care provider.
- Eye health
As you get older, your risk for developing age-related eye conditions and diseases increases. Age-related vision changes can affect your balance and the risk of falling. Many changes to your vision happen so slowly you may not notice you have a problem. Visit an eye care professional (optometrist or ophthalmologist) regularly and with any vision changes to maintain your eye health and ensure timely treatment.
Training and Education
Step Ahead to Fall Prevention Training
Step Ahead to Fall Prevention in Older Adults is offered as an e-Learning or in-person training program for agency staff, Personal Support Workers and caregivers based on fall prevention research and best practice.
This online e-learning module has been developed in partnership between York Region Public Health and Toronto Public Health. The course will empower learners to incorporate fall prevention knowledge and skills into their daily work with older adults. Participants will learn about age-related changes that contribute to falls and modifiable risk factors associated with falling.
- Free, interactive and you can learn at your own pace
- Can be completed in approximately 90 minutes
- Offers a certificate of participation on completion
This half day training is facilitated by Public Health Nurses. Participants will examine age-related changes and modifiable risk factors associated with falls that will enable them to incorporate fall prevention strategies when working with older adults. Participants will engage in group learning activities and discussions to strengthen their fall prevention knowledge and skills.
To discuss an in-class workshop opportunity for your group, contact Access York at: 1-877-464-9675.
Fit to Retire
Good health is an important factor for quality of life in retirement. To achieve optimal health, adopt healthy lifestyle choices before retirement.
The Fit to Retire booklet is a healthy aging resource for older adults aged 55 and older who are thinking about retirement. This resource addresses the four health factors essential to chronic disease prevention and fall prevention including: staying connected socially, getting fit for life, healthy eating and stress management.
Age-friendly communities are communities for everyone, both young and old.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, age-friendly communities are communities that modify, build, and put in place policies, services and structures that support and enable people to age actively. By including older adults in, and valuing their contribution to, all aspects of community life, age-friendly communities provide opportunities for people of every age, stage and ability to live safe, healthy, meaningful and active lives in their own community or home.
Features of an age-friendly community may include:
- Green spaces, walkways, pathways and cycling paths that are accessible, clean and safe
- Benches with armrests in public spaces and along pathways and trails
- Public buildings that are well-lit with level entryways and well-maintained pavements that are also free of snow and ice
- Housing and public transportation options for older adults that are affordable and accessible
- Social clubs and programs for older adults that promote social connection and provide opportunities to interact with younger generations
- Walking or Tai Chi groups and access to volunteer opportunities
- Snow and ice removal from entrances, steps and other paved areas
- Longer pedestrian signal crossings at road intersections with visual and audio cues
For more information and to learn what you can do to make your community more age-friendly, refer to the Age-Friendly Communities fact sheet and other age-friendly communities resources found in our Resources section or directly below.
- World Health Organization’s Global Age-friendly Cities: a guide
- Checklist of Essential Features of Age-friendly Cities
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Age-Friendly Communities
- Seniors Health Knowledge Network: Age-Friendly Communities Planning Outreach Initiative
- Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP): Age Friendly Communities Initiative
- British Columbia Age-Friendly Communities: Age-friendly BC video series
- Bringing Awareness of Senior Safety Issues to the Community (B.A.S.S.I.C.) - A collaboration of community members, public sector agencies and volunteer organizations in the GTA
- Centralhealthline.ca – A website offered by the Central Local Health Integration Network (CLHIN) as a source of local health and social services information
- UnlockFood.ca - Information on nutrition and healthy eating for older adults including articles, A Guide to Healthy Eating, and the option to speak to a Registered Dietitian directly
- LOOP – An online communication platform for the Fall Prevention Community of Practice; The Community of Practice supports and connects members to network, find answers and work together in the prevention of falls with access to free library services
- Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility - Develops and delivers public services to seniors to improve their quality of life so they can be safe, engaged, active and healthy. Helps to make Ontario more accessible by implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and by preventing barriers for people with disabilities
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Aging and Seniors - Information on age-friendly communities, emergency preparedness, elder abuse, physical activity tips for older adults and reports on seniors and falls in Canada
- The Safe Living Guide -A guide to home safety for seniors