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Did you know that one of every three people 65 and older falls each year? Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people 65-plus.

In North Dakota, 822 fall-related deaths occurred among adults 65 and older from 2008 through 2017. Fall-related deaths among older adults account for 89% of all fall-related deaths in the state.

Falls threaten older adults’ safety and independence, and generate enormous economic and personal costs. However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Because falls are largely preventable, taking action today is important to reduce your risk of a fall. Here are six easy steps to help you to reduce falls.

1. Find a good balance and exercise program that builds balance, strength and flexibility.

2. Talk to your health-care provider and ask for an assessment of your risk of falling.

3. Review your medications with your pharmacist or doctor. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling.

4. Get your vision checked annually and update your eyeglasses as needed.

5. Keep your home safe. Increase lighting, remove tripping hazards, install grab bars and make stairs safe.

6. Assess your footwear for safety. Look for supportive shoes, a good fit, a sole that grips, and a heel that is stable and grips.

Strong evidence supports the effectiveness of fall prevention programs, particularly those that target multiple risk factors.

Stepping On, a fall-prevention program offered by North Dakota State University Extension and the North Dakota Department of Health, will be offered in Mandan every Monday for seven weeks beginning October 7. Contact Vanessa Hoines, NDSU Extension Agent in Morton County at 701-667-3340 to register.

The workshop, offered once a week for seven weeks, empowers older adults to adopt healthy behaviors that reduce the risk of falls. Research has found that those completing the Stepping On workshop experienced a 52 percent reduction in falls.

In a small-group setting, older adults learn balance and strength exercises, and develop specific knowledge and skills to prevent falls. The workshop also includes information about home modifications, community safety and vision, and a medication review. One of the main components of the workshop is the balance and strength exercises. Strength begins to decrease after the age of 50 and decreases more rapidly after the age of 70.

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Vanessa Hoines is an extension agent with NDSU Extension/Morton County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer science education and food and nutrition and a master’s degree in child development and family science.

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