Falls are the No. 1 reason for injury-related death, hospitalization and emergency department visits for older adults in Canada. Falls among older adults cost $5.6 billion in 2018 – nearly 20 per cent of the total cost of injury in Canada.
Our bodies naturally change with age and these changes affect the way we feel, move, and behave. A fall can have a devastating and lasting impact on a person, resulting in injury, chronic pain and a reduced quality of life. Even without an injury, a fall can cause an older adult to lose confidence and reduce their activities. The good news is that there are actions you can take to prevent falls.
Check out our resources section below to find information on how to assess risk, how to prevent a fall, how to get up safely after a fall, falls and their connection to various issues such as vision, medication, chronic diseases, cognitive impairment and more.
Key strategies to prevent falls
These are the most effective steps you can take to prevent a fall, as assessed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Finding Balance, a program for older adults and caregivers created by the Injury Prevention Centre at the University of Alberta.
- Exercise: challenge your balance and build strength.
- Get enough sleep.
- Take your time: don’t rush when walking or getting up.
- Balance your body through good nutrition and hydration.
- Get your sight and hearing checked regularly.
- Manage your medications and review them regularly with your pharmacist or doctor as some may make you prone to dizziness and falling.
- Wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes.
- Consider using a cane or other mobility device if needed.
- Maintain proper use of eyeglasses and hearing aids.
In your home
- Make sure you have proper lighting in hallways, stairs and walkways, as well as in the bedroom and bathroom.
- Keep stairs free of clutter and exterior stairs and walkways free of clutter, ice or snow.
- Install hand rails along stairs and safety grab bars in the bathroom.
- Check your home for slipping and tripping hazards, and use non-slip mats or rugs.
- Ensure regularly used items are within reach.
Canada’s aging population
The proportion of Canadians aged 65 or older is projected to increase from 17.5% in 2019 to between 21.4% and 29.5% by 2068.Source: Statistics Canada
Fall prevention is critical as our Canadian population ages; without successful prevention strategies, we face a difficult and pressing issue of providing treatment and facilities to care for those who have been injured due to a fall.
Cost of falls
Cost of injury – Falls in seniors infographic
Parachute has partnered with Brittlestar, “The Internet’s Favourite Dad”, to produce a series of short videos featuring Brittlestar and his real-life mom having humorous conversations to convince her to exercise and take other actions that will prevent falls. The videos tell people how to find Parachute’s fall-prevention resources developed as part of our #FallPreventionCanada campaign. This campaign won the Gold award for best short video at the 2022 International Safety Media Awards.
Brittlestar and his mom: Explaining fall prevention
Brittlestar and his mom: Fall prevention exercises are easy (for some people)
Brittlestar and his mom: Stand for clear floors (or you’ll fall for anything)
Fall prevention – general
The resources below will help you understand your fall risk and proven strategies to prevent falls.
Avoid falls with three simple tips – Mc
Master Optimal Aging
The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal provides direct access to trusted, evidence-based information about optimal aging and common health conditions that can be used to inform patients about how to live full, healthy lives. You can browse by topics and sub-topics including fall and injury prevention.
Bruno and Alice: A Love Story in Twelve Parts About Seniors and Safety
This series of twelve illustrated stories follows the whimsical romance of two active seniors who, through lack of prevention, end up in awkward situations and almost miss their rendez-vous with love. The stories offer insight into some of the personal preventive measures seniors can take to make their environment safer and prevent injuries.
Falls: Common, Costly and Preventable (webinar)
Recorded Thursday Nov. 18, 2022, and organized by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) featuring Nancy Edwards, Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor at the University of Ottawa; Dori Krahn, Community Relations Co-ordinator for the Saskatoon Fire Department who leads the Remembering When program, a fire safety and fall prevention program for older adults; and Stephanie Cowle, Director of Knowledge Translation at Parachute.
Gait and Balance in Older Adults: Slips, Trips and Falls (webinar)
Sinai Health and UHN (University Health Network) hosted this webinar on September 27, 2022, and is part of the Healthy Ageing 101 Webinar Series.
How to lower your fall risk – Public Health Agency of Canada
You CAN prevent falls – Public Health Agency of Canada
Seniors’ Falls in Canada
Better Winter Footwear Handout
A new generation of winter footwear can significantly reduce the risk of slipping and falling on icy surfaces. This infographic produced by the KITE Research Institute at University Health Network highlights the importance of using KITE’s lab-based testing to determine footwear effectiveness on ice because looks can be deceiving.
CARP Ottawa: Winter footwear and staying active in winter
Session 1 of 3 from the C.A.R.P. Ottawa Chapter’s fall prevention webinar series in November 2020.
Leigh Vanderloo (Knowledge Translation Manager, ParticipACTION) describes the importance of maintaining physical activity during winter months and movement guidelines.
Tilak Dutta (Scientist, KITE Research Institute, University Health Network) describes how his lab tests gripability of winter boots and how they rate winter boots that provide better friction on ice.
Judy Andrew-Piel (Community Support Coordinator, Bushtukah) explains traction basics with practical tips regarding safer outdoor winter footwear.
Tips for caregivers to help seniors stay active during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Home modifications and safety
The guides below will help you ensure your home is as safe as possible and free from fall hazards.
CARP Ottawa: How to make stairs safer for everyone
Session 3 of 3 from the C.A.R.P. Ottawa Chapter’s fall prevention webinar series in November 2020.
Sarah Fraser (Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa) describes assessing stairs for safety and showed common examples of fall hazards on stairs.
Craig White (Branch Manager, Stannah Stair Lifts) describes what to consider when deciding whether or not to install a stair lift as an option to more safely navigate stairs.
CARP Ottawa: Make your bathroom safer
Session 2 of 3 from the C.A.R.P. Ottawa Chapter’s fall prevention webinar series in November 2020.
Paulette Guitard (Professor and Occupational Therapist, School of Rehabilitation Scientist, University of Ottawa) describes how and why grab bars that are properly installed in bathrooms can prevent falls.
Peter Hache (Owner of Renos4Life – formerly Renos4Seniors) describes considerations and innovations in the design and renovation of bathrooms that are safer.
Maintaining Senior’s Independence Through Home Adaptations
This self-assessment guide was developed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Designed for older adults, this large-print guide identifies the types of difficulties older adults can experience in the home and describes adaptations to overcome these difficulties. This Guide helps older adults assess their own unique circumstances including using stairs, moving around the house, doing laundry and answering the door. The Self-Assessment Guide would be of interest not only to older adults but their families and caregivers. (March 31, 2018).
Preventing Falls on Stairs
This fact sheet describes the common causes of falls on stairs and provides many strategies to help prevent them. Most falls can be prevented through good planning and recognition of the health, environmental and behavioural contributors to falls. Includes design suggestions for safe stairs and a glossary of terms. (© 2004 CMHC, Revised 2016)
Room-by-room guide to eliminate causes of falls – Philips Lifeline
Use this resource to eliminate common fall risks in each room of your home.
Safer Bathrooms, Safer Bathing
Navigating a slippery bathtub or shower can be challenging, but grab bars can help you move safely and confidently in your bathroom. In this infographic from the KITE Research Institute at University Health Network, find out what features to look for in a grab bar, and where to install it. Check out the links at the bottom of the infographic for resources, and where to turn if you need more help.
1,000.93 KB PDF
The Safe Living Guide – A Guide to Home Safety for Seniors
Through this guide, the Public Health Agency of Canada provides advice on how to prevent injuries by keeping your home, yourself and your environment as safe as you can. Checklists allow you to verify and increase the safety of your surroundings and lifestyle, and real-life stories offer testimony to the value of adapting.
12 Steps to stair safety at home – Public Health Agency of Canada
Balance exercises for people living with Parkinson’s disease – Video Series
This video series includes several low-impact balance exercise classes with Parkinson Society BC’s neuro physiotherapist, Shelly Yu. These classes focus on lower extremity strength and agility-type activities required for fall prevention, such as multidirectional stepping, weight shifting, and turning.
Balance exercises for people living with Parkinson’s disease – Tip Sheet
Break and Avoiding Frailty – Videos
BodyBreak’s YouTube Channel consists of five videos on the topic of avoiding frailty.
Osteoarthritis and Exercise – Health
People living with arthritis
Arthritis Research Canada has developed two videos on fall prevention for those living with arthritis.
Episode 7 of the Arthritis Research Education Series focuses on how this organization is working to prevent falls in older adults through research and why this topic is important for people living with arthritis.
Learn how to prevent falls from Senior Scientist and physiotherapist, Dr. Linda Li, in Preventing Falls in Older Adults webinar recording.
Physical activity for people living with osteoporosis
Osteoporosis Canada has developed a video series on exercise and osteoporosis in partnership with the University of Waterloo and Geriatric Education and Research in Aging Sciences Centre which provides ideas for safe and effective exercise and physical activity.
The video series tells the stories of four very different people with osteoporosis and showing their innovative solutions to keep healthy and active.
Preventing Falls: A Guide for People Living With Parkinson’s
Preventing vision-related falls in seniors
Staying active and healthy eating
The resources below provide helpful information on how to safely add more movement into your daily life, whether inside or outside of the home.
Adding movement to your at-home routine
COVID-19 and Nutrition
This infographic provides guidance on how to stay strong and healthy through good nutrition during the pandemic. Healthy eating can help prevent muscle and bone loss to reduce risk of falling or breaking bones. It provides basic information on symptoms of COVID-19, at-risk population, good nutrition guidance and other healthy behaviour.
970.17 KB PDF
To support older adults in moving more at home, Later Life Training in the United Kingdom developed movement snacks. These 20-minute videos posted on Facebook and YouTube encourage everyone to move more throughout the day, especially if you’re not able to get outside. There are more than 500 videos now on You Tube and it’s recommended you start at the beginning of the series.
Physical Activity Toolkit – Particip
To help older adults sit less and move more, ParticipACTION developed a Physical Activity Toolkit for Older Adults! The toolkit includes physical activity guidelines, a walking program, a movement log, articles on the role physical activity plays in prevention and management of chronic disease, plus lots of useful resources to help older adults get moving.
Too Fit to Fracture
These resources – videos, booklets and webcasts – help healthcare and fitness professionals design exercise plans for people with osteoporosis and/or fragility fractures, and for individuals to track and monitor their own progress. Dr. Lora Giangregorio from the University of Waterloo and a group of international experts developed the Too Fit to Fracture exercise recommendations for individuals with osteoporosis or osteoporotic vertebral fracture, which were published by Osteoporosis International in November 2013.
28.93 MB PDF
What to do after a fall
These resources let you know what to do if you or a loved one suffers a fall.
How to safely help someone to get up – Video
Below is a video that provides instructions on what to do if someone falls.
If I fall, what do I do? – Finding Balance Alberta
If you fall or witness a fall, do you know what to do? – Public Health Agency of Canada
Discover essential knowledge and practical steps to prevent falls and respond effectively with the Fall Prevention and Response resource provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada. From prevention strategies to immediate response guidelines, empower yourself to promote safety and well-being in your community.