Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(01):93-94

See related article on prevention of falls in older patients.

What should I know about falls in older people?

Older people who fall can hurt themselves badly. Injuries from a fall can range from bruises and cuts to more serious problems like a broken hip. Falls may keep an older person from living alone. Some older people may not do certain things because they are afraid of falling.

What causes older people to fall?

Most falls in older people are caused by things around us, like slick floors, clutter, and loose rugs. Other reasons are weak muscles, trouble seeing, balance problems, dizziness, and side effects from medicines.

Who is in danger of falling?

Falling happens more as people get older. This is because of changes that come with aging, such as trouble seeing, balance problems, and arthritis.

You are more likely to fall if you:

  • Have fallen before

  • Have weakness in your legs

  • Are unsteady while walking or have balance problems

  • Are taking more than four medicines

  • Have medical problems such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, heart problems, low blood pressure, or dizziness, or have had a stroke.

How can I keep from falling in my home?

Many falls happen at home. You can make your home safer by following these tips:

  • Make sure you have good lighting in each room.

  • Put night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.

  • Keep floors free of clutter. Don’t leave things out that you could trip over (for example, throw rugs, books, clothes, or cords).

  • Put hand rails and lights on the stairs.

  • Wear shoes with firm, non-skid soles. Don’t wear house shoes (flip-flops), heels higher than 1 inch, or sports shoes.

  • Put rails in the bathtub and shower and around the toilet.

  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.

  • Keep items within easy reach in the kitchen cabinets.

What else can I do to keep from falling?

  • Get your eyes and hearing checked regularly.

  • Stay active and exercise often. This keeps your muscles and bones strong. Exercises that help your balance also are helpful. Talk to your doctor about the right kind of exercise for you.

  • Take care of your feet. If you have any pain in your feet, tell your doctor.

  • Ask your doctor if you need to use a walking aid.

  • Have your doctor go over all your medicines. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy.

  • Don’t drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day.

  • When you get out of bed, sit on the side for about three minutes before you stand up. Standing up quickly can make you feel dizzy or lose your balance.

  • If you live alone, get an emergency system. With it, you would have an alert button that you can wear around your wrist or neck. Pressing the button sends a call for help. This is in case you fall where you cannot reach the phone.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor.

American Geriatrics Society

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

National Institute on Aging

  • Web site address:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

  • Web site address:

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in PubMed

Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.