Why are falls so serious in older people?

More than 1 in 4 Americans ages 65 and older fall each year, but falling does not have to be an inevitable part of aging

9 min

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suffered a concussion and has been hospitalized after he tripped and fell at a hotel. The senator will stay in the hospital for observation and treatment, his spokesman said Thursday.

The news highlights the risks of falling that older adults face. It’s not the first tumble for the 81-year-old, who fractured a shoulder in 2019 in a fall outside his Louisville home.

Every year, millions of Americans older than 65 experience falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This translates to 1 in 4 older adults falling, resulting in more than 800,000 emergency department visits, with 1 in 5 of the falls resulting in serious injuries such as broken hips or other bone fractures, or head trauma, according to CDC. Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in this age group, the CDC says.

“For the elderly, a fall is a life-changing and potentially life-ending event,” said Christine Kistler, associate professor in geriatric and family medicine at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Here are answers to some common questions about falling risk.

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