Overcoming Fear of Falling: 10 Tips to Empower Older Adults

Select Columns Layout

Written by Elizabeth PTHome Safety

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase through a link, but there is no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I find helpful. 

Action is the antidote to fear. Isn't this true for so many circumstances? Simply getting started and doing something makes us feel better. This concept also applies to a prevalent issue for seniors: fear of falling. Sadly and ironically, fear of falling actually increases fall risk for older adults.

Why Addressing Fear of Falling Is Important

Statistically, falling once doubles the chance of falling again. Thus, it is no surprise that fear of falling is an enormous concern for many seniors and their loved ones.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that falls are the primary cause of injury and death among older adults. While most people relate falls to physical injury, the mental and emotional toll is often just as significant, if not greater. Post-traumatic stress can remain long after physical injuries are well-healed.

So, it's essential for seniors to take proactive measures to prevent falls and alleviate their fear of falling. Fear of falls significantly impacts well-being, quality of life, and the ability to stay independent. But what if there were ways to decrease this fear and increase confidence in mobility?

These tips and strategies will do that and help reduce the risk of falls.

Woman lying on the floor and holding her shoulder after a fall

10 Ways for Seniors to Decrease Fear of Falling

  1.  Regular exercise: Keeping in good physical shape can go a long way toward feeling confident and strong. Activities such as walking, strength training, yoga, or tai chi can enhance balance, strength, and flexibility, helping to reduce the risk of falls. Remember to always check with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise program.
  1. Home safety modifications: To immediately create a safer home environment, eliminate tripping hazards by decluttering pathways, removing throw rugs, securing larger area rugs, and brightening up dark areas with improved lighting. Although seemingly minor, these changes will significantly impact fall prevention. These activities are recommended as a starting point before making further home modifications to improve safety and minimize the risk of falls.
  1.  Regular vision checks: Poor vision can increase the risk of falls, so older adults should have their eyes checked regularly and wear appropriate corrective lenses as needed.
  1.  Management of medications: Some medications can cause dizziness or balance issues, so reviewing all medications with a healthcare provider and ensuring they are being taken as prescribed and adjusted as needed to minimize side effects that raise fall risk is critical.
  1.  Proper footwear: Wearing supportive, non-slip shoes with good traction can help prevent slips and falls. Look for shoes that fit well with a sturdy sole and a secure heel. Avoid walking in socks, and if you must, choose grippy, non-slip socks.  
  1.  Use of mobility aids: If necessary, using canes, walkers, or other assistive devices can provide added stability, support, and confidence. Many types and styles of mobility aids fit different personal needs and various settings.
  1.  Adequate hydration: Dehydration can lead to weakness and lightheadedness, increasing the risk of falls. It's important for older adults to drink enough water throughout the day.
  1.  Maintain a healthy diet: Eating a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients can help older adults maintain strength and energy, reducing the risk of falls.
  1.  Regular health check-ups: Regular check-ups with healthcare providers can help identify underlying health conditions or risk factors contributing to falls. Discussing whether there is a fear of falling is also crucial during visits. Since falls are usually a result of a combination of factors, the more information the medical professional has, the more they'll be able to help.
  1.  Stay active and social: Engaging in social activities and hobbies can help older adults stay active, maintain their physical and mental well-being, and build confidence, reducing the fear of falling.
Older man and woman doing tai chi to reduce risk of falls

Conclusion and Next Steps for Falling Fears

This list isn't just a great way to reduce fall risk and fear of falling. These are also recommendations for a healthier lifestyle and improved retirement well-being. 

The activities mentioned vary in the level of commitment required. While a few basic home modifications were discussed, numerous other beneficial changes can enhance home safety and reduce seniors' risk of falls. These modifications can also help create a home suitable for aging in place

For more suggestions on how to make your home environment safer, take a look at this Home Safety Checklist.

About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

Ready to discover your Golden Girl strategy for a retirement-ready home?