Strategies to reduce the risk of falling: Cohort study analysis with 1-year follow-up in community dwelling older adults

John N. Morris, Elizabeth P. Howard, Knight Steel, Katherine Berg, Achille Tchalla, Amy Munankarmi, Daniel David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: According to the CDC, falls rank among the leading causes of accidental death in the United States, resulting in significant health care costs annually. In this paper we present information about everyday lifestyle decisions of the older adult that may help reduce the risk of falling. We pursued two lines of inquiry: first, we identify and then test known mutable fall risk factors and ask how the resolution of such problems correlates with changes in fall rates. Second, we identify a series of everyday lifestyle options that persons may follow and then ask, does such engagement (e.g., engagement in exercise programs) lessen the older adult's risk of falling and if it does, will the relationship hold as the count of risk factors increases? Methods: Using a secondary analysis of lifestyle choices and risk changes that may explain fall rates over one year, we drew on a data set of 13,623 community residing elders in independent housing sites from 24 US states. All older adults were assessed at baseline, and a subset assessed one year later (n = 4,563) using two interRAI tools: the interRAI Community Health Assessment and interRAI Wellness Assessment. Results: For the vast majority of risk measures, problem resolution is followed by lower rate of falls. This is true for physical measures such as doing housework, meal preparation, unsteady gait, transferring, and dressing the lower body. Similarly, this pattern is observed for clinical measures such as depression, memory, vision, dizziness, and fatigue. Among the older adults who had a falls risk at the baseline assessment, about 20 % improve, that is, they had a decreased falls rate when the problem risk improved. This outcome suggests that improvement of physical or clinical states potentially may result in a decreased falls rate. Additionally, physical exercise and cognitive activities are associated with a lower rate of falls. Conclusions: The resolution of risk problems and physical and cognitive lifestyle choices are related to lower fall rates in elders in the community. The results presented here point to specific areas, that when targeted, may reduce the risk of falls. In addition, when there is problem resolution for specific clinical conditions, a decreased risk for falls also may occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number92
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 29 2016


  • Community-dwelling older adults
  • Strategies to reduce risk of falls
  • interRAI assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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