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Information for the Elderly

December 23, 2014

Nearly 40% of deaths in America can be attributed to smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet, or alcohol misuse-behaviors practiced by many people every day for much of their lives. Adopting healthy behaviors such as eating nutritious foods, being physically active, and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or control the devastating effects of many of the nation’s leading causes of death regardless of one’s age.

Regular physical activity greatly reduces a person’s risk from dying of heart disease, and decreases the risk for colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Physical activity also helps to control weight; contributes to healthy bones, muscles, and joints; helps to relieve the pain of arthritis; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression; and can decrease the need for hospitalizations, physician visits, and medications.

Finally, physical activity does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial; people of all ages benefit from moderate physical activity. However, people tend to be less active as they age. By age 75, about one in three men and one in two women do not engage in any physical activity.1 Organizations and agencies who are looking for assistance in planning strategies to help older adults increase their physical activity can use The National Blueprint: Increasing Physical Activity

Among Adults Age 50 and Older
Tobacco Use
Chronic Diseases
Health damaging behaviors
Cardiovascular Health
Colorectal cancer
Breast Cancer
Infectious Diseases

In the United States, one of every three persons aged 65 years and older falls each year. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injuries, hospital admissions for trauma, and deaths due to injury. In 1999, about 10,097 seniors died of fall-related injuries.9 Fractures are the most serious health consequence of falls. Approximately 250,000 hip fractures, the most serious fracture, occur each year among people over age 65. Many of these falls and resulting injuries can be prevented. Strategies to prevent falls among older adults include exercises to improve strength, balance, and flexibility; reviews of medications that may affect balance; and home modifications that reduce fall hazards such as installing grab bars, improving lighting, and removing items that may cause tripping.

While rates of motor vehicle related death and nonfatal motor vehicle related injuries among older adults vary by state, there are some consistencies. In most states, the fatality rates for men are twice those for women. In all states, motor vehicle-related fatalities are higher among adults 75 years and older, as compared with adults between 65 and 74 years of age. Among older adult drivers, the number of motor vehicle-related fatalities increased 30% and the number of nonfatal injuries increased 21% between 1990 and 1997. However, the number of fatalities and nonfatal injuries among older adult pedestrians declined during these same years (23% and 24%, respectively).

Risk factors for suicide among the elderly differ from those among the young. Older persons have a higher prevalence of depression, a greater use of highly lethal methods and greater social isolation. From 1980?1998, the largest relative increases in suicide rates occurred among those 80?84 years of age. The rate of suicide is higher for elderly white men than for any other age group, including adolescents.6

People aged 65 and older are twice as likely to die in a home fire as the population at large. The National Fire Protection Association, with assistance from CDC, has developed a fire and fall injury prevention program directed at older adults called Remembering When.