(TRENTON) – A measure sponsored by Assembly members Linda R. Greenstein and Wayne P. DeAngelo to raise public awareness of the health and financial problems that can arise when an elderly loved one slips and falls received final passage on Thursday by both houses of the State Legislature. With the aging of the state’s baby boomers, local community programs have begun to educate senior citizens about ways to safeguard themselves from falls at home and in public while improving their health to become stronger.
Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR-52) designates the third week of September as “Fall Prevention Awareness Week” each year as a reminder of the potential impact an avoidable fall can have on a loved one. The measure was unanimously passed by the General Assembly in an 80 to 0 vote on June 21, 2010 while the State Senate passed the measure in a 36 to 0 vote on September 30, 2010.
Twenty-two states have issued formal proclamations setting aside one day each year for fall prevention awareness.
“As our loved ones get older, a fall can occur because of complications with medication that make it tough to balance, reduced vision, chronic health plans, and a lack of strength in their lower extremities,” said Greenstein (D-Plainsboro). “Our goal is to educate not only our older loved ones but their family and friends about ways to make their homes and community centers safer to ensure that we take appropriate safety precautions.”
An estimated one third of those people over 65 will experience a fall each year; while one half of those individuals over 80 years old will experience a fall each year. There are currently 1.3 million New Jerseyans who are 65 years or older, but estimates show that in the next 10 years that number will dramatically increase.
“A long flight of stairs, slippery floors, or difficult to navigate spaces can pose a risk for senior citizens that would not otherwise be a problem for a healthy adult,” said DeAngelo (D-Hamilton). “With this designation, the public will be reminded to think about what we can do in our communities to make it safer for our seniors and how we can educate them about ways to make changes to their surroundings so that they don’t end up accidentally slipping and hurting themselves.”
A fall can lead to difficulty in mobility, a loss of strength, a lack of independence and ultimately to feelings of sadness and depression. For a person of advanced age, these residual problems after a fall can be prolonged and take it’s toll on them physically, emotionally mentally.
In addition, paying these additional medical bills can force many senior citizens living on a fixed income to cut corners on other necessary expenses which can just lead to a further downward spiral in their health and well-being. More than $26 billion is spent annually to treat injuries caused by falls. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a fall-related hospitalization can cost about $17,500.
Greenstein and DeAngelo said they are beginning to create a community outreach program to travel throughout the 14th District to discuss fall prevention awareness with groups of senior citizens. They hope to begin the outreach program at the end of the calendar year and continue through the coming year.
“It’s very important for us to consistently meet with groups of seniors and bringing them important information that can protect them or provide a benefit for them. We look forward to putting together a program to talk to our constituents about the best way to keep them safe and fall free for years to come,” said Greenstein.
On September 20, 2010, Greenstein participated in a Senior Fall Prevention program hosted by Robert Wood Johnson at Hamilton hospital which was attended by approximately 125 local seniors.
More information about ways to prevent senior citizens falls is available at the CDC website (www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/index.html) or on the Mayo Clinic website (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fall-prevention/HQ00657).