To be effective, a community safety program must also include outreach to senior adults. Physical changes in older individuals make them more vulnerable to injury and reduce their chances to recover.
- Slips and Falls - More than one third of adults 65+ fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among seniors. Falls are also a major cause of disabling injuries that permanently restrict the mobility of seniors. Each year, almost 2 million seniors are treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries from falls, and more than 400,000 are hospitalized. Rates of fall related deaths have increased significantly over the past decade.
- Motor Vehicles - Today’s seniors are mobility-minded and elect to drive longer. However, some older drivers are unable or unwilling to assess their driving capabilities.
- Pedestrians - Seniors account for 18% of pedestrian fatalities, and have the highest rate of any age group. Seniors often have difficulty hearing or seeing cars, and are especially vulnerable at intersections because they need more time to cross the street.
- Suicide - Suicide among the elderly is becoming an increasing problem and high rates of alcohol involvement have been found among individuals who commit suicide.
- Fire - Older adults suffer twice as many fire deaths as the general population. People 85+ are four times as likely to die in a fire as other groups. When a fire starts, the elderly are likely to need more time to escape from a fire area, and may need the assistance of others to do so.
Addressing the Issue
Begin by compiling the accident rates for your community and talk to the police, fire, ambulance and health departments about the issue. Reach out to senior groups and seek their views on these questions. For example, are there particular intersections that need safety improvements to accommodate the needs of senior adults? Where should sidewalks be improved? What other services can the community provide seniors?
In addition to the New Jersey Safety Institute, there are numerous organizations that provide educational material including the Brain Injury Alliance, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and many others.