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Ohio communities smash goal to take “10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls”

| October 11, 2017

COLUMBUS – Ohio’s communities stepped up in a big way to help the state’s older adult falls prevention initiative raise awareness of older adult falls and promote strategies to prevent them. For the third consecutive year, the STEADY U Ohio initiative called on community organizations, businesses and groups to help take “10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls,” and they responded by logging more than 56 million steps in the name of falls prevention.

“This year’s partners for ’10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls’ were an exciting mix of new and experienced hosts, and brought with them a range of innovative ideas to help us achieve and surpass our goal in surprising ways,” said Stephanie M. Loucka, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, which operates the STEADY U Ohio initiative. “We thank each of them for raising awareness that falls are not a normal part of aging, and that most falls can be prevented.”

Regular physical activity is one of the most basic things older adults can do to prevent falls, which is why walking is the focus of this annual event. Throughout September, and especially on Sept. 22, National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, 53 community partners hosted 57 walking groups or events in which 4,935 individuals of all ages walked more than 22,000 miles. In addition, individuals around the state contributed by walking and posting selfies to social media with the hashtags #PreventFalls and #10MStepsOH.

“The first step was to bring people together and jumpstart the conversation in our communities,” said Loucka. “Now, it’s time to build on that success by promoting proven strategies to prevent falls in our homes, our businesses and our communities, all year long.”

While older adults make up about 16 percent of our population, they account for more than 85 percent of fatal falls. An elder is injured in a fall every five minutes on average, and two older Ohioans are hospitalized each hour. Sadly, three older Ohioans will die today because of a fall-related injury. Medical costs alone for falls in Ohio total $1.1 billion. Work loss and other expenses add another $800,000 to that bill. That breaks down to $5.2 million each day.

This year’s “10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls” partners included area agencies on aging, senior housing providers and residents, hospital systems, local health departments, senior centers, state agencies, local school districts and more. Events and groups ranged in size from two people to more than 1,000. Participants were provided information about falls prevention and encouraged to visit the STEADY U Ohio website (www.steadyu.ohio.gov) for falls prevention tips and resources, including a falls risk self-assessment and information about “A Matter of Balance,” an evidence-based falls intervention available around the state.

How you can prevent falls

Decreased muscle mass, vision and hearing decline, medical conditions and joint pain are some of the age-related changes that can increase falls risks. However, minor changes to the three H’s – home, health and habits – can offset these risk factors:

Home: Remove or secure throw rugs; improve lighting especially near stairs; install grab bars in the bathroom; rearrange the home to make frequently used items easier to reach.

Health: Ask your doctor about a falls risk assessment and talk about medicines you take and whether they increase your risk for falls; have your hearing and vision checked annually.

Habits: Stay active to build muscle strength and improve balance; slow down and think through tasks; stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet that includes calcium-rich foods; enroll in a community-based falls prevention program, such as “A Matter of Balance.”

STEADY U Ohio is a comprehensive falls prevention initiative led by Governor John Kasich and the Ohio Department of Aging, and supported by Ohio government and state business partners to strengthen existing falls prevention activities, identify opportunities for new initiatives and coordinate a statewide educational campaign to bring falls prevention to the forefront of planning for individuals, families, health care providers, business and community leaders and all Ohioans. Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov.

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Article contributed to The Beacon.

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