16 Ways to Prevent Falls for Seniors

As individuals age, their bones tend to lose density and become more porous and fragile. For this reason, it is not uncommon for seniors to experience fractures and other significant injuries after having a fall. 

It is also important to note that, older seniors tend to have more health conditions which makes recovery from a surgery more complicated and risky. 

As a result it is best to implement falls prevention strategies to reduce risk factors before a fall occurs. These are 16 ways to help prevent falls in seniors:

  1. Ensure pathways have ample lighting

Making sure that the walkways are properly illuminated, especially at night is an important way to prevent falls. Some seniors have visual impairments that may cause them to not see surfaces and pathways as clearly as others would. This issue can be overcome to some degree with increased lighting to show seniors the path ahead as they walk within the home. 

A common error made by many seniors is that they attempt to walk to the bathroom at night without turning on the lights. This leads to many avoidable falls and can be prevented with motion activated light sticks to brighten up frequented hallways and rooms that seniors use.


Additional information: Common visual issues that affect people in their later years of life include glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. Having numerous light bulbs on can help illuminate darkened pathways and allow these individuals to be more independent with mobility and activities of daily living.

  1. Clear paths of any obstacles or tripping hazards

It is also important to have clear pathways free of any obstacles or tripping hazards that may cause someone to fall. Items on the steps of a staircase are especially dangerous as there is a potential for not only a fall, but also a risk of stumbling or rolling down the stairs if one were to lose their footing.

  1. Use a mobility aid to increase safety with walking

Age related muscle loss, impaired balance, decreased circulation, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes and arthritis are just some factors that may affect one’s ability to walk. A physician’s assessment to diagnose and treat any underlying issues is the first step, however in some cases seniors require the use of a mobility aid to maintain their safety with walking. 

The most common tool to improve a senior’s ability to walk is a rollator walker. With a rolling walker, a senior’s front and sides are surrounded by a metal frame that they push along as they walk. Their hands hold onto the sides of the frame for improved stability and to support their weight during walking.

  1. Give time for the body to adjust to changes in position

Some seniors may have an underlying condition of vertigo or orthostatic hypotension which places them at risk of losing their balance if they move too quickly. For example, with orthostatic hypotension, getting up too fast from a chair or bed can make someone feel dizzy and could potentially lead to a drop in one’s blood pressure as the body adjusts to the change in position. Individuals with this condition are recommended to stay standing for a short period of time until their body becomes adjusted to the change in posture. Once the body has adjusted, one’s blood pressure should return to their baseline and the feeling of dizziness should subside to some degree. From there many seniors can resume normal activities which may include walking to the bathroom or other parts of their home.

  1. Wear appropriate indoor shoes

Slippers and sandals can easily slide off one’s foot and may lead someone to trip or fall down the stairs as they attempt to compensate their footing to help keep the shoe on. Also, it is important to minimize the use of fashionable heels and dress shoes as these may have a less material in contact with the floor, which would require an increased amount of balance to prevent a fall. Instead, shoes such as sneakers with a flat sole and a good rubber bottom that grips surfaces well is the recommended footwear for seniors to wear within their home. For people with peripheral neuropathy that may have decreased sensation in their feet, wearing sneakers has an additional benefit of preventing injuries related to stepping on sharp objects.

Summary: Footwear such as indoor slippers are not recommended because they may easily come off the foot when walking or climbing stairs. While they may be comfortable, they are generally considered a tripping hazard and unsafe by home safety experts.

  1. Use assistive device to increase safety with transfers

Installing grab bars or other transfer aids can improve safety with getting in and out of the bathtub and shower. These areas are especially dangerous because floors and surfaces tend to be slippery when wet and this may contribute to falls. As well, completing personal hygiene tasks can be very energy demanding and requires a sufficient amount of balance and muscle endurance. With supportive aids, this activity can be made safer and may allow a senior to maintain their independence without assistance from a caregiver.


Additional information: Click the following link to learn more about bathroom safety equipment for seniors.

  1. Have vision corrected and wear the appropriate glasses or lenses

Ensuring that vision is corrected for any deficits is an important part of falls prevention. Seniors that have visual impairments may not notice floor thresholds or hazards in their path and could potentially trip. Thus, having annual eye exams is generally recommended for seniors, although those at high risk of vision problems usually need more frequent assessments. 

Common error: Seniors often forget to put on their glasses for short trips to the bathroom at night. When lighting conditions are poor, and one does not wear their prescription glasses, this is a recipe for falls. It is important that vision correcting glasses are worn at all times when walking.

  1. Exercise regularly to maintain muscle strength and endurance

An active individual that stays in shape usually has a lower chance of falling. Seniors that engage in regular exercises tend to be able to walk for longer periods of time, be more healthy, and sustain less injuries if they were to have a fall. As well, being in good physical shape is one of the predictive factors of a more successful recovery following an injury or surgery.

A home exercise program led either by a physical therapist or other rehab professional with the goal of boosting muscle strength and endurance can assist with maintaining good physical health. The disadvantage to home based exercises is that they are generally limited to simple activities such as practicing standing from a chair, climbing stairs or working on balance while holding onto a grab bar.

Seniors that are able to leave their house to access community based falls prevention programs, are recommended to do so as these offer significant advantages over traditional home based exercises. Some of the benefits of a community program include:

  • Usually have the necessary tools and equipment to help someone achieve optimal improvements and gains in muscle strengthening and balance
  • Seniors usually receive more training sessions and reinforcement to ensure they are completing the exercises correctly
  • Group based exercise classes can be considered a social event that can prevent feelings of isolation in the elderly
  • Depending on the location, the cost of classes could be covered by government social assistance funding
  1. Stay on one main floor to reduce climbing the stairs

As seniors age they tend to have more difficulty with climbing stairs. This problem can be seen easily if a senior minimizes the amount of times they use the stairs throughout the day. Generally, someone with stair climbing challenges will come down from a second floor bedroom in the morning and only climbs up when it is time to prepare for bed. In some cases, seniors may even start to sleep on the couch or a reclining chair located on the main floor to avoid the stairs.

While there are ways to make climbing stairs more safe with a stair glide or an additional staircase handrail, a better alternative may be to eliminate or reduce the use of stairs all together. If there is space on the first floor of a multistory home, a bed can be relocated to eliminate the need to ascend and descend the stairs on a regular basis. 

Caution: The main floor needs to have an accessible bathroom. While a two piece bathroom can be sufficient, a full bathroom with bath or shower is ideal as this would eliminate the need to climb stairs for regular bathing and personal hygiene.

  1. Do not wear loose clothing

Having loose clothing can put someone at risk of a fall. For instance, if one’s loose shirt or sweater were to be entangled or get caught on an object, it could cause a fall or lead to accidentally breaking something. For this reason it is important for seniors to wear comfortable, yet close fitting clothing to ensure that they can walk through their environment without injuring themselves.

  1. Discuss medication side effects with healthcare practitioners

Some medications are known to cause side effects that may include unsteady gait, imbalance, drowsiness and dizziness. For this reason, any adverse side effects should be discussed with the prescribing medical practitioner so that they can be resolved before a fall occurs. A medication review by a pharmacist may be more helpful because they are well aware of potential drug interactions and may be able to offer suggestions to the prescriber for alternative treatment options if there is any issue.

  1. Manage chronic health conditions

Managing one’s chronic health conditions is an important part of falls prevention. Conditions that may result in shortness of breath, dizziness, poorly regulated blood sugars, uncontrolled blood pressure and circulation problems can contribute to a risk of falls. For this reason it is important that medical appointments are not cancelled and health check-ups be performed regularly.

Tip: Medical appointments are often delayed or canceled by seniors due to difficulty with getting to the doctor’s office. A transport wheelchair can help alleviate this problem and allow a caregiver or family member to push someone from the car to the doctor’s office if needed.

  1. Eat well and stay hydrated

Seniors spend high amounts of their energy performing activities such as bathing, dressing, walking and climbing stairs. Engaging in these activities and a senior’s underlying health conditions can lead to dehydration, dizziness and fatigue which can increase one’s risk of falling. For this reason, it is important to eat healthy and nutritious meals to help maintain well regulated fluid levels, electrolyte concentrations and control blood sugar values.

Tip: Following any dietary restrictions imposed by a physician can be a strong predictor of well managed chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and many gastrointestinal conditions. 

  1. Get good quality sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep or napping during the day to recharge one’s energy levels is an effective way to reduce falls. It has been well studied and documented that a lack of sleep is equivalent to being impaired with alcohol, and may cause someone to make errors in judgement, or not perceive things within their environment. If one were to have difficulty with transfers or mobility, being impaired as a result of fatigue would increase one’s chance of falling.

Tip: Disturbed sleep as a result of underlying pain or other health conditions that affect sleep quality need to be addressed to ensure that someone is cognitively alert and focused during the day.

  1. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

It is well known that alcohol can impair one’s perception, reduce reaction time and affect one’s judgement. For this reason, it is advised that seniors reduce drinking alcoholic beverages to lower their risk of falling. A reduced intake of alcohol can help someone to more clearly observe hazards in the environment and follow proper safety precautions when walking, climbing stairs or transferring from one surface to another.

Additional information: A common reason why people require to use the emergency department or hospital is as a result of injuries sustained during a fall while inebriated.

  1. Accept help from a caregiver if needed

In some cases, physical rehab for strengthening one’s body and the use of assistive aids cannot help a senior to overcome their risk of falling. In situations like this, help from a caregiver may be needed to assist a senior with walking, climbing stairs, transfers or engaging in personal hygiene tasks. 

While many seniors see the need for help as a loss of Independence and dignity, the alternative may be to continue having falls. Unless someone is deemed incapable of making their own personal care decisions, a senior’s autonomy must be respected even if they wish to place themselves at risk of injury or falls. Unfortunately, it is often after a significant injury or disability occurs as a result of a fall that stubborn individuals start to realize that they may require help with their day to day living. A good rapport with one’s medical practitioner can help guide a senior towards accepting help, but ultimately it is up to the senior to decide the degree of help they feel comfortable with.