March 3, 2019/Senior Health

Falling: Are You Or a Loved One At Risk?

Learn how to reduce the risk of tumbles and falls

Elderly woman with cane gets assistance from friend on a walk

Let’s face it: As we age, our reflexes are no longer lightening-quick. Our bones become more fragile. Our eyes just might be playing tricks on us. These factors can lead to the likelihood of a serious tumble. And falls can cost us — not only in terms of treatment, but in terms of independence and even our lives.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

So who’s more at risk for a tumble?

It’s important to know whether or not you or a loved one might be at risk of falls, says geriatric clinical nurse specialist Anne Vanderbilt, MSN, CNP, CNS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 4 older people falls each year. This doubles the chances of falling again. And fewer than half of these people tell their physician.

People over age 65, having four or more of these risk factors increases your risk of falling:

  1. A history of falls.
  2. Arthritis.
  3. Depression.
  4. Dizziness.
  5. Chronic disease.
  6. Taking more than four medications.
  7. An acute illness.

Other significant risk factors are:

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. If you see yourself in the above lists, make some changes and be sure to get your annual health screenings.

How to reduce your risk

Don’t let fear of falling cramp your lifestyle. Use these tips to stay safely upright, Vanderbilt suggests:

  • Check your meds. Taking four or more medications ups your chance of falling down. This includes over-the-counter medicines. Talk to your doctor to see if any can be safely eliminated.
  • See the eye doctor annually. Wearing specs that aren’t up to snuff is a factor in falls among the elderly. A yearly eye exam will reveal whether your prescription — or your glasses — needs adjusting. Don’t delay having your cataracts removed.
  • Outfit those feet. Most seniors know to skip the heels. But bare-footing it or staying in stockings or socks at home also increases your risk of falls. Look for non-skid footwear, including slipper socks with non-skid treads on the bottom.
  • Work out. Incorporate exercises that make your legs stronger and work on your balance. Tai chi is a good example.
  • Lean on me. Better to use a cane or walker than to lose your balance. Put pride aside so that you can get around safely.
  • A family affair. A strong social network of family and/or friends means fewer falls. If you’re feeling isolated, reach out. Maybe someone is waiting to hear from you!


Preventing a fall is your best bet for remaining active and independent as you age.

Tips for making your home safer

Fall-proofing your home is also a must to avoid sudden spills:

  • Clear your path of clutter such as shoes, books and newspapers.
  • Get rid of throw rugs or tack them down with two-sided tape.
  • Keep things you often use easily accessible.
  • Add grab bars and secure mats to bathrooms, tubs and showers. Install handrails on stairwells.
  • Let there be light — use brighter lights with less shadows to boost safety.

Take an active role in preventing falls to help ensure your own safety. Knowing if you are at risk is the first step.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

man feeding a baby in a high chair
March 21, 2023/Children's Health
Baby Fell Off the Bed and Hit Their Head? Here’s What To Look For

First, take a deep breath — it happens more than you might think

Person holding a bathroom grab bar for balance
October 15, 2023/Senior Health
Aging in Place: What To Know

Some planning, products and projects can help older adults stay in their homes safely longer

person falling
September 5, 2023/Senior Health
How To Conquer the Fear of Falling

Staying active and doing what you love may increase both your confidence and your balance

Excited grandma video shats with grandson from her living room.
August 3, 2023/Senior Health
Older Adults and Mental Health: What To Watch for and How To Help

Loneliness is a key factor in worsening mental health among seniors

Elderly woman's hands toss bean salad in bowl on a white kitchen table.
July 6, 2023/Senior Health
Nutrition for Older Adults: Why Eating Well Matters as You Age

Age-related physical changes and personal circumstances can impact healthy eating

Edler man laughs with friends and family at dining table.
July 4, 2023/Senior Health
Successful Aging: Tips for Keeping Your Body and Mind Sharp

Living longer is more than just growing older — it’s also about living life to its fullest

older woman drinking a glass of water
May 29, 2023/Senior Health
Drink Up: The Connection Between Age and Dehydration

Body changes put older adults at increased risk of dehydration

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey