According to the National Council on Aging, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 15 seconds, and, sadly, falls are the leading cause of injury death among adults age 65 years and older in the United States. An older adult dies following a fall every 29 minutes.
The Carroll Center for the Blind offers a program called Project Safe Home in which trained safety and mobility specialists make free in-home visits to Greater Boston area seniors at risk of falls due to impaired vision. The average age for Project Safe Home clients is 82 years old and almost 62 percent of clients are legally blind.
“One of the biggest challenges with vision loss is depth perception,” said Joe Kolb, certified orientation and mobility specialist for the Carroll Center. “People with vision loss have difficulty accurately gauging where a step (or some other elevation change) starts and ends, as well as how deep (down) or high (up) the step is. This can make even a familiar place like home trickier to navigate.”
Kolb explained that the top and bottom of the stairs are the places where most people fall, not in the middle. “Often, people have a hard time finding that first step, or they think they’re at the bottom already and they trip.”
“There are significant medical consequences and costs associated with just one fall,” continued Kolb. “For people who fall and break a hip, their chances are only 60/40 of living independently at home again. We want to prevent that occurrence by working closely with older adults to make it safe for them to stay in their homes.”
Since the program was founded in 1985, the Carroll Center has helped approximately 1,564 clients improve their home safety. In 2012, the organization was recognized in the Falls Prevention Hall of Fame by the National Council on Aging.
This story was published originally in the Tufts Health Plan Foundation’s June 25, 2013 newsletter and updated in November 2013.