One of the things I detest most about winter in Iowa is the increased prospects of falling.
Now, I’m not talking about falling in love or falling for a new television series. I’m talking about slipping on ice and falling on your butt.
Being tall with a high center of gravity (and a large one at that) I have been dealing with this danger for years. On my 35th birthday, I recall, I slipped on ice in our church parking lot. My feet slipped out from under me and I went down quickly ̶ tailbone hitting the ice first and then my head.
I already had lower back problems and I’m sure the fall exacerbated that condition. There are folks, I’m sure, who would have you believe that my head striking the ice has had lasting effects as well.
As I have grown older I’ve had some nasty non-ice falls as well. A few years ago I tripped over a telephone cord in my home office and went down to the hardwood floor. This summer I tripped over a rain gutter extension and went down to the grass face first. I hate that.
To be fair, I must tell you that a few years ago I failed to see a step down at a Des Moines coffee shop. I did a most spectacular dance and remained upright, surprising even myself.
It was good then that an acquaintance from my days of managing the Dallas County Newspaper Group 10 years ago emailed me upon my moving to Dallas County this summer and suggested we meet for coffee.
Dallas County Supervisor Mark Hanson also works with the Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging which has more relevance to me today than it did a decade ago. The agency has partnered with several other organizations, including the Iowa Department of Public Health, to develop a Falls Prevention project funded by the U.S. Department of Health. The project’s goal is to prevent falls by at-risk Iowans including older adults and individuals with disabilities.
After bringing me up-to-date on Iowa’s fastest growing county Mark told me about his other job and shared some alarming statistics. The three stats that caught my attention: 1. falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits in Iowa; 2. older Iowans die from a fall six times more often than all ages combined; and 3. one out of every 27 older Iowans is hospitalized for a fall-related injury.
Need more proof of the problem? Nationwide, one in three Americans aged 65+ falls each year; every 13 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall; and the average hospital stay related to fall injuries is $26,000.
I’m still struggling with recognizing myself as an “older Iowan” but I have to concede that my family didn’t have indoor plumbing until I was 5 years old and didn’t have our own telephone until I was eight. So I guess I am an older Iowan and this fall prevention stuff is aimed at me, too.
The Iowa Falls Prevention effort (which has nothing to do with the City of Iowa Falls) maintains that falls are not a natural consequence of aging and that there are things we baby boomers and our parents can do to prevent falls.
The Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging has posted several excellent videos on falls prevention at www.i4a.org/education/falls-prevention/default.aspx. The videos focus on prevention steps including in-home and outside conditions, medications, vision and hearing and exercise and balance.
A wealth of aging related information, including falls prevention, is also available at www.lifelonglinks.org.
Falls prevention classes are offered in many communities around Iowa. For more information on those opportunities call (toll free in Iowa) 866-468-7887.
Meanwhile, I’m walking like a penguin when there is snow or ice on the ground. I have viewed the falls prevention videos and am working hard to remain upright. When this much weight and body mass unintentionally fall to earth it’s not a pretty picture.