5 Things to Know About What Causes Falls in Elderly

Falls among the elderly are very common in America. Although not all falls are fatal, some have caused the premature mortality of our beloved seniors. If a person over 65 years old falls, they should receive immediate medical attention to prevent health complications and premature demise. Normally, slips and falls in this group indicate declining body function and poor health, so caution must be exercised to prevent them. So, what causes falls in the elderly? The causes of falls among the elderly are discussed in detail in this article. We will also look at the measures we can all take in our homes and facilities for the elderly to mitigate slips and falls.

Decline in Physical Fitness

With age, the human body’s functioning declines, and one is rendered unable to do the things one could do in earlier years. Usually, the physical decline [1] is associated with the lack of physical activity. However, part of the decline also comes naturally due to physiological changes. Seniors experience the following challenges that make it hard to be physically fit:

Reduced Muscle Mass

As one ages, the size of the muscle fibers decreases. Experts indicate that an average person loses about three kilograms of lean muscle per decade after middle age. The most affected muscles are the phasic types that are responsible for strength and fast contraction. Reduced muscle mass is linked to reduced physical fitness. Physical exercise can help increase physical endurance and strength among the elderly.

Reduced Bone Density

Research shows that bone density begins to decline after 40 years old but increases at around 50 years old. Bone loss among the elderly makes them more susceptible to bone fractures. If one has a fractured bone, one is unable to engage in a physical fitness routine. If they have no fracture, the elderly should have an exercise routine that incorporates weight-bearing exercises.

Reduced Joint Flexibility

All human joints need regular movement to remain healthy and supple. However, old age makes these joints less flexible. Conditions that affect the joints, such as arthritis, may also prevent normal joint flexibility and movement. Aerobic and strength exercises among the elderly can improve joint mobility and flexibility.

Increased Body Fat Levels

With increased age, the body tends to increase fat deposits. This may lead to excessive weight gain that predisposes one to falls due to reduced balance. Besides increasing susceptibility to falls, too much body weight is also associated with cardiovascular conditions.

Impaired Vision

Loss of vision is among the most commonly occurring health challenges among the elderly. Studies indicate that one in every three people have a vision-reducing eye condition by 65 years of age. This makes the elderly prone to falls, especially if they cannot clearly see the objects on uneven flooring in front of them. Some of the conditions that cause impaired vision [2] are discussed below.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is a condition that involves the degeneration of the macula. The macula is a part of the retina, and it is responsible for central vision. This condition can be nonexudative or exudative. The nonexudative form is more common. People with this condition normally have good eyesight for most of their lives. As age advances, there is progressive geographic atrophy of the macula. It can cause blurred vision, scotoma, or distortion. The elderly should get an annual eye examination to detect the signs of this condition in time.


Glaucoma refers to the damage of the glaucomatous optic nerve that leads to visual field loss. This condition is one of the leading causes of blindness in America. One in every one million Americans over 65 years of age has lost vision due to glaucoma.


Cataracts cause poor or impaired vision, especially among the elderly. Today, fewer people go blind because of cataracts because surgery can be done in time to prevent the loss of vision. The risk of cataracts increases with age. This condition involves the lens slowly becoming opaque, leading to poor vision. Usually, this condition progresses very slowly, and exposure to ultraviolet light contributes to the progression of this condition.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Type II diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions among the elderly. Diabetes complications include diabetic retinopathy that causes a notable decline in the ability to see. The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy heightens with the increasing duration of the disease. This condition can either be proliferative or nonproliferative. In the latter, there are abnormalities in the retinal circulation. In the proliferative type, holes form in the newly formed blood vessels in the retina, iris, or optic disc.


It is very common for the elderly to be taking different prescription or non-prescription drugs every day to deal with various health complications. Unfortunately, some of the medications they take can cause severe eye issues, especially if the drugs have been used for a long time. Some of the drugs that cause vision loss [3] are corticosteroids such as betamethasone and prednisolone. These medications cause glaucoma and cataracts if used for extended periods.

Another category is viagra and other drugs used for erectile dysfunction. They can cause the user to see things with a blue tinge, and in rare cases, they also cause optic neuropathy. Other medications that interfere with normal vision among the elderly are bisphosphonates for osteoporosis, Topiramate for seizure and mood disorders, Isotretinoin for severe acne, and Tamoxifen for ovarian and breast cancers.

Chronic Diseases

A good share of seniors suffers from one or more chronic diseases. These diseases come with complications that affect the eyes and cause poor vision. As a result, seniors are at increased risk of slips and falls. The chronic diseases [4] that interfere with normal vision are discussed below.


Diabetes is prevalent among American seniors and other older adults from all over the world. Swings in blood glucose levels characterize this condition. If the high and low blood sugar levels are not controlled through medical and nutrition intervention, the eyesight becomes affected. High blood sugar levels for a long period tend to damage the blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen to the eyes and cause diabetic retinopathy. This complication is a common cause of blindness among American seniors. Besides, diabetic people are at increased risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure tends to affect the retina. It causes a complication known as hypertensive retinopathy. When the blood pressure is too high, it can damage the fragile blood vessels that supply the eyes. The risk of this complication increases the more the blood pressure remains elevated. Hypertensive retinopathy can cause permanent vision issues.

Autoimmune Diseases

Several autoimmune diseases affect normal vision. Usually, persons suffering from autoimmune diseases experience red, itchy, dry eyes, sensitivity to light, vision changes, and eye pain. Treating autoimmune diseases among the elderly helps to control eye complications.


Rosacea is a very common skin disorder that is characterized by redness and visible blood vessels. It also manifests through the formation of tiny, red bumps filled with pus. This condition is often accompanied by ocular rosacea among the elderly. Ocular rosacea is characterized by feeling like you have debris in the eyes or redness, itching, dryness, and burning of the eyes. Prompt treatment usually resolves this problem. However, vision impairment or loss can occur if ocular rosacea is left untreated.

Liver Disease

Most people know that jaundice, or the yellowing of the skin and eyes, is a common symptom of liver disease. However, this is not the only eye complication that accompanies liver disease. Liver cirrhosis, for example, causes itchiness and dryness of the eyes. It also causes the formation of small fat droplets on the eyelids. On the other hand, congenital liver diseases cause damage to the lens and cornea, leading to poor vision.

How to Prevent Falls

Falls among the elderly can be prevented [5] by doing the simple things discussed below:

Physical Exercise

The elderly often struggle with poor balance and eyesight. Physical exercise helps to prevent slips and falls. It does this by improving balance, flexibility, coordination, and strength. Physical activity among the elderly does not necessarily mean going to the gym. It can be simple activities such as walking, tai chi, or water workouts. It is imperative to consult a doctor before a senior begins an exercise routine. The doctor will recommend safe activities, and if there is a need, they will refer you to a physical therapist for additional help. The therapist may recommend using the best exercise peddlers or other exercise machines, depending on your condition.

Wear Proper Shoes

An older woman should not wear 6-inch heels like they once did in their thirties and forties. Choosing appropriate footwear is one of the most basic steps you can do to reduce the risk of slipping and falling among the elderly. Seniors should avoid high heels, shoes with slick soles, and floppy slippers as they increase the risk of falling. It is also imperative to choose non-skid and strong shoes that are well-fitting. Besides reducing falls, choosing the appropriate shoes also reduces joint aches.

Eliminate Hazards Within the Home

Ordinary objects around the home normally cause slips and falls among the elderly. Removing any object that looks like a fall hazard should be done regularly. This involves inspecting the entire house, especially the bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchen, and living room where seniors frequent. Some of the hazards you should remove are boxes, electrical cords, newspapers, and phone cords from all walkways. You should also repair or re-carpet loose floorboards and store all home necessities, including food, dishes, and clothing, within reach.

You should also use non-slip mats in the shower or bathtub. Eliminating hazards also involves moving or rearranging furniture in the home. All plant stands, magazine racks, and coffee tables should be moved away from the home’s high-traffic areas. It is also crucial to form the habit of cleaning grease, liquid spills, and food spills immediately and secure all loose rugs.

Ensure the Home is Well-Lit

A well-lit home prevents tripping on objects around the house. Homes with seniors prone to falls should have adequate lighting to make it easier for them to see items or objects that may be hard to see in poor lighting. All bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways should have night lights. Flashlights should also be stored in easy-to-find areas for easy reach in case of power outages.

Assistive Devices

Seniors often have health complications that increase the likelihood of slips and falls. Doctors may recommend assistive walking devices to help you remain steady and stable as you go about your daily activities. Some of the assistive devices they recommend are walkers for seniors, grab bars for shower handles, raised toilet seats, and non-slip treads for staircases.


Falls among the elderly can cause serious complications or even fatality. The elderly are prone to falling because of various reasons. These include poor vision, chronic diseases, side effects of various medications, and the overall decline in body health and fitness. Fortunately, falls can be prevented by making simple changes around the home and keeping seniors physically active to build their strength, flexibility, and stability. We hope that this article has assisted you to understand the causes of falls among the elderly and how to prevent them.


  1. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/physical-activity-for-seniors#
  2. https://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0701/p99.html#
  3. https://www.allaboutvision.com/eye-care/medication-side-effects/
  4. https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/eye-health/10-health-conditions-that-may-affect-your-eyes
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging/in-depth/fall-prevention/art-20047358
We will be happy to see your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      11 − two =