As we get older, it’s a lot easier to put our health at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the population of older U.S. adults is growing and seniors are living longer than ever—but age still brings about an increase in health concerns, particularly the prevalence of chronic diseases. At the same time, many of the health problems we face as we age could be a direct result of our daily habits. In fact, experts say one common phone behavior could disproportionally affect the health and well-being of older adults. Read on to find out what you should never be doing if you’re over 65.
Rushing to answer the phone can be very dangerous for anyone, but especially those who are 65 years old or older, says Dorothea Hudson, a senior care expert who works QuickQuote, a life insurance company. According to Hudson, older adults trying to get to their phone to answer it before it stops ringing is one of the most common reasons they end up falling.
“The sudden burst of physical activity required to reach a corded phone in time to answer it is enough to cause an elderly person to lose their balance,” she explains. “Falls are often a life-threatening experience for those 65 and older as well, so they are disproportionately affected.”
Many older adults have to travel to answer the phone because they use corded landline phones. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, adults over the age of 65 are the most likely out of any age group to rely on landlines, with 10.4 percent saying they have a landline and no cell phone service as of June 2020.
Only 35 percent of people this age have gone totally wireless, compared to more than 80 percent of adults ages 25 to 34. Some experts recommend older adults get rid of their corded landline phones to avoid the potential for danger. Hudson says an easy solution to phone-induced falls among adults 65 and older is to carry a cordless cell phone instead of a landline. “Another safety tip is to avoid having exposed cords in general, not just from a phone but other electronic devices. This reduces trip hazards,” she notes.
Falls are common among U.S. adults 65 years old and older, according to the CDC. The agency says that every second of every day, someone in this age group suffers a fall, resulting in about 36 million falls reported among older adults each year. Out of this, about three million end up needing to be treated for injuries in emergency departments and 32,000 older adults die annually. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury and injury death for adults 65 years or older, according to the CDC. But while the risk of falling increases with age, the agency says it is not a normal part of aging.
“Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling,” the CDC explains, noting that healthcare providers can help cut down a person’s risk by reducing these factors. Risk factors that heighten the chance of falling among older adults include lower body weakness, vitamin D deficiency, difficulties with walking and balance, the use of medication that can affect balance, vision problems, foot pain, poor footwear, and home hazards.
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Slowing down when answering the phone or getting rid of your corded landline altogether is just scratching the surface of how you can make your home safer to protect against potential falls, according to the CDC. The agency has an entire checklist of ways to make your space more fall-proof by finding and fixing hazards in your home.
In terms of stairs and steps, you should remove anything you can trip over, like papers, books, clothes, and other objects. You should also fix loose or uneven steps, have an electrician put in an overhead light and light switch at the top and the bottom of the stairs, make sure your light bulbs are always working, check that your carpet is firmly attached to every step or remove it and attach non-slip rubber treads, and fix any loose or short handrails. The CDC has similar tips for your floors, but also recommends you coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall so you can’t trip over them.
For more safety tips, go over the agency’s entire checklist.