As Americans live longer, it seems we are also living better, meaning, we are healthier and more likely to stay active. But it turns out there is a hidden danger in that. There is information in a new government report that could save your life.
Dot Hattaway, 83, and her husband Louis have lived for 57 years in their home near Baltimore. It’s a comfortable fit says Louis, though using the stairs has become increasingly uncomfortable for Dot.
"My biggest fear is falling, breaking something, not being able to get out with people and to do things that I like to do,” she says.
She has good reason to be concerned. Monday's report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that adults 65 and older are at increasing risk for injuries, especially from falling.
"Because it results in such serious injury, loss of life and loss of functional independence and its preventable we want to do something about it,” says Dr. Michele Bellantoni.
That means alerting seniors about the most common danger zones for accidents including their bathrooms, ladders and step stools and in their kitchens.
The numbers are startling. Injuries requiring emergency room visits by seniors are up 73 percent in a decade, to 1.4 million. There were nearly 16,000 deaths from accidents at home in 2003.
Although seniors and aging baby boomers are spending more time at fitness centers to maintain their health, the study reveals a downside.
“One of the things we suspect is causing the increase in the rate of injuries, particularly to Americans older than 75, is that they are becoming more active and are engaged in more sports,” says Hal Stratton of CPSC.
The study cites over 100 drownings and another 140 deaths from bicycles accidents in 2002.
At their home near Chicago, Bill and Marilyn Tahlman are especially careful.
"We're very much mindful of our environment, where we are, what's on,” Says Bill. “We never leave anything plugged in."
The challenge for these 70-somethings and millions like them, is to balance independence and safety.
“I just want to stay well and I don't want to be a burden on anybody,” says Bill. “I don't want to have to be, you know, cared for if I can avoid that's the key.”
Accident prevention and awareness for seniors and those who'll soon join their ranks, are keys to a healthy future.