Seniors at Greater Risk of Severe Fall Injuries Due to Delayed Reaction Time

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New Study Suggests Older Adults Take Longer to Realize They are Falling, Increasing Risk of Serious Injury

 Most of us assume that, if we were to slip, trip, or fall inside our homes—on slick flooring or on the staircase—we would immediately realize we were in danger and might use our hands or arms to help cushion the fall. However, according to a recent study reported in Science News, older adults may “need twice as long as young adults to realize they are falling,” and that delay can “put them at increased risk for serious injury.” In other words, a delayed reaction time can make injuries from falls more severe, perhaps as a result of failing to catch oneself.



The recent study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo, described their findings in terms of “fall perception”—how long it takes certain age groups to perceive that they are falling and to take steps to lessen the impact. How did the researchers conduct the study? They created a controlled environment to measure supervised falls through sound among adults of varying age groups. Here is what they found: “young adults required the fall to happen about 44 milliseconds before the sound in order for both cues to be perceived as occurring simultaneously.” The results were different for adults over the age of 60. Among those study participants, recognition of a fall occurred “about 88 milliseconds before the sound.” Therefore, the researchers of the study concluded that there may be a “lag time” among older adults when it comes to recognizing that they are falling, which is “often too late for them to consciously do anything about it.”


Getting the Facts About Fall Among the Elderly

 In addition to learning about the “lag time” in fall perception, what else do you need to know about older adults and fall-related injury risks? The following facts about falls among the elderly come from the National Council on Aging (NCOA):

  • About 25% of Americans aged 65 and older fall at least once every year;
  • Emergency departments treat an older adult for fall-related injuries once every 11 seconds;
  • Every 19 minutes, a senior sustains fatal injuries in a fall-related accident;
  • Fatal injuries among the elderly occur most often as a result of falls;
  • Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injury among seniors requiring hospital admission; and
  • Every year, falls lead to more than 2.8 million injuries that require treatment in an emergency department and more than 800,000 hospitalizations.

If you or someone you love got hurt in a fall-related accident, contact a premises liability lawyer about your situation.

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