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Research reveals senior falls caused by more than slipping

October 18, 2012

Falls are a common obstacle on the path toward healthy aging, and while most people assume these incidents are caused by slips, a new video study suggests otherwise. Researchers from Canada's Simon Fraser University found the issue of preventing falls may require a more varied approach.

The study, published in The Lancet, was conducted using a closed circuit camera situated in a long-term care facility. The team discovered that rather than slipping, incorrect shifting of weight was the biggest cause of falls in seniors. In fact, 41 percent of people who fell did so because they moved their center of gravity to somewhere that their body couldn't support their weight.

While incorrect shifting of weight was the most common reason for falls among the elderly, it certainly wasn't the only one. Tripping and stumbling caused roughly  21 percent of falls, while bumps were responsible for 11 percent. Additionally, 11 percent were the result of a loss of support. Perhaps most surprisingly, slips were only the cause of 3 percent of falls. Researchers hope their findings change how healthcare professional approach senior falls.

"Prevention of falls in elderly people needs to be a public health priority," said professor Stephen Robinovitch. "However, up to now, the general scarcity of reliable information on falls in elderly people has hindered the development of safer environments for older people and fall prevention programs."

In addition to making changes around the house or retirement community that make it easier for seniors to get around without incident, older adults can also be proactive in preventing falls. Specifically, exercise has proven to be especially effective, with activities such as Tai Chi, walking and water workouts improving strength, flexibility and balance.