The Basics: Overview

More than 1 in 4 older adults fall each year, meaning falls are common. But you can make small changes to help prevent falls. 

Falling can lead to broken bones, trouble getting around, and other problems — especially if you’re age 65 or older. A fracture (broken bone) can cause pain and disability. It can also make it hard to do everyday activities, like cooking or taking a shower, without help. Broken hips may lead to serious health problems — and even death.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to lower your risk of falling. Take these steps:

  • Talk with your doctor about falls and how to prevent them
  • Do exercises to improve your balance and strength
  • Review all medicines with your doctor or pharmacist — some medicines can make you dizzy or sleepy and cause you to fall
  • Get your vision checked by an eye doctor every year — and be sure to update your glasses or contact lenses when your vision changes
  • Make your home safer — for example, add grab bars inside and outside your bathtub or shower and put railings on both sides of stairs

The Basics: Am I at Risk?

What makes falling more likely?

As people age, poor balance and weak muscles can lead to falls and fractures. Some older adults also have vision problems or medical conditions that can make a fall more likely. For example, diabetes can reduce feeling in your feet and a stroke can affect your balance. These conditions can make you more likely to fall.

You may be more likely to fall if you:

  • Have fallen in the past year
  • Have a health condition that makes it hard to walk or affects your balance, like diabetes or heart disease
  • Have trouble walking, getting up from a chair, or stepping up onto a curb
  • Take many different medicines, especially medicines to help you relax or sleep
  • Have trouble seeing or have a vision problem like cataracts or glaucoma

Use this checklist to find out if you’re at risk for falling [PDF – 1.8 MB].

If you’re worried about falling, talk to your doctor or nurse about how balance exercises and physical therapy can help. Find out more about preventing falls and fractures.

Take Action: Get Active

Many falls are preventable. Follow these steps to lower your risk of falling.

Get physical activity.

Staying active can help you feel better, improve your balance, and make your legs stronger. Learn more:

Improve your balance.

Exercises that improve your balance can help prevent falls. For example, tai chi is a mind-body exercise that can help with balance. You can:

Build your muscle strength. 

Do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. These include lifting weights or using resistance bands (long, stretchy rubber strips).

Try these strength exercises at home.

Take Action: See a Doctor

There’s a lot your doctor can do to help keep you safe from falls. Talk with your doctor about your risk of falling.

Talk with your doctor about using medicines safely.

Using medicines safely can help prevent falls. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and cause you to fall. 

Take all of your medicines (including over-the-counter medicines) to a doctor or pharmacist and ask if any of them could increase your risk of falling.

Learn more about using medicines safely. You can also print this list of questions to ask your doctor about preventing falls and take it with you to your next appointment.

Get your vision checked.

Your vision changes as you get older. And poor vision can increase your chances of falling.

Get your eyes checked every year to make sure you’re wearing glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength. Be sure to update your glasses or contacts if your prescription has changed. Read more about keeping your vision healthy.

Get a bone density test.

If you’re a woman age 65 or older, get a bone density test to measure how strong your bones are. If you’re a woman age 64 or younger and you have gone through menopause, ask your doctor if you need a bone density test. Learn more about bone density tests.

If you have weak bones (osteoporosis), ask your doctor or nurse what steps you can take to stop bone loss and lower your risk of fractures.

Take Action: Home Safety

Help prevent falls at home.

Many falls happen inside the home. Take these steps to make your home safer:

  • Have railings put on both sides of all stairs inside and outside of your home
  • Have grab bars put inside and outside your bathtub or shower and next to the toilet
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower
  • Remove small rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping
  • Use bright lights throughout your home, especially on the stairs
  • Keep stairs and places where you walk clear of clutter — pick up or move things you can trip over, like cords, papers, shoes, or books
  • Keep kitchen items you use often in easy-to-reach cabinets or shelves

Use this checklist to help prevent falls at home

And be sure to follow these safety tips:

  • Always wear shoes with non-slip soles, even inside your home — don’t walk barefoot or wear slippers or socks instead of shoes
  • When you’re getting out of a chair, stand up slowly
  • When you’re getting out of bed, sit up first and then stand up slowly

Take Action: Healthy Habits

Get enough calcium.

Getting enough calcium can help keep your bones strong and make them less likely to break. You can:

Get plenty of sleep.

Getting enough sleep can help you be more alert so you’re less likely to fall. Find tips for getting enough sleep.

Drink alcohol only in moderation.

Alcohol can increase your risk of falling. If you choose to drink alcohol, it’s important to drink only in moderation to help you stay safe and avoid injuries. Read about drinking in moderation.

Take Action: Caregiver Support

Help your loved one prevent falls.

If you’re a caregiver, there’s a lot you can do to protect your loved ones. You can: