In speaking with some colleagues about fall prevention over the last couple months the theme of a perceived tipping point has come up several times. When I joined the senior market back in early 2011 the term “aging in place” was not heard or spoken by many people other than a few forward thinkers and those intimately involved in the implementation of modifications for home safety, accessibility and universal design elements. Fast forward a short 7 years and it seems everyone is talking about fall prevention and aging in place. A couple months ago I walked into a Starbucks and there was a magazine in the rack and the top article read, “Re-Thinking Aging-in-Place”. Opra, New York Times, Huffington Post, local and national news stations, fall prevention seminars, workshops and presentations, the word seems to be getting out. I even recently saw a walking park near my home with fall prevention specific exercise equipment!!
So what happened?
Well, in January 2011 a significant event was triggered. Baby Boomers began turning 65 at approximately 10,000 every day, and that has not stopped nor will it for another 12 years. But here is what some people don’t seem to realize. If in fact 10,000 people turned 65 today, then their parents are now anywhere from 85-95+. That is roughly an additional 35 million individuals in the “fall prevention” statistical danger zone.
A recent Age Safe® America Advisor Member, contractor and CAPS instructor told me last week that in 2017 he did more home safety assessments than he did in the last 8 years. He wanted to know what I equated that to.
Last summer the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a wide-ranging report calling for action from the public and private sectors to work together to reduce senior injuries at home and to integrate fall prevention strategies and support efforts to aging-in-place, senior home safety, and continuous care models. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020. We live in a world that when the pain point reaches $67B things begin to finally happen. Home safety issues are being discussed everyday at kitchen tables, local municipalities, as well as state and federal governments. It’s a massive issue and for the most part preventable!
Last year Age Safe America launched a campaign declaring “Grab Bars Are The New Seat Belts“, to target America’s two oldest generations. Hopefully this and other campaigns will motivate us all to take steps now to reduce preventable fall injuries in the home, for our own sake and the safety of our aging parents. As senior safety advocates and healthcare professionals we all have a responsibility to make it clear to our family, friends and clients that grab bars are not an option, they are a mandatory device for preserving independence.
There will always be Planners and Procrastinators, yet it seems the tide is turning in as far as the age of those individuals now moving forward with basic modifications not only for the safety of their aging parents but for their own homes. Much of the motivation for those of us in our late 50’s and early 60’s comes from watching our parents, neighbors and parishioners having difficulties and devastating and even fatal falls.