May is Older Americans Month. Established in 1963, it was designated as a time to celebrate and acknowledge senior citizens for their past and current contributions to their communities and the country at large.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living has a different theme for every Older Americans Month. This year it is: “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.” The focus is on safety and injury prevention to encourage older adults to protect themselves and to remain active and independent for as long as they can.
Unintentional injuries to this population result in at least six million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year. With an emphasis on safety during Older Americans Month, we encourage older adults to learn about the variety of ways they can avoid the leading causes of injury, like falls.
The Administration for Community Living offers the following recommendations to be safe today and healthy tomorrow:
— Talk to your health care provider about the physical activities best for you. Regular exercise helps to improve endurance, strength, balance and coordination.
— Have your vision checked regularly. Your sight plays a large part in preventing injuries at home, on the road and in the community.
— Manage your medications and be aware of how they interact with each other and over-the-counter drugs, certain foods, alcohol and other medical conditions. Learn how medications may make you unsteady on your feet or affect your ability to operate a motor vehicle.
— Work on preventing falls by installing handrails and grab bars where needed, especially around stairs and in bathrooms. Ensure good lighting inside and outside of your home and add one or more nightlights between your bedroom and bathroom. Choose shoes with non-slip soles that provide support without adding bulk, which could cause you to trip, and use a cane or walker for improved balance and stability.
— Try to prevent fires and burns by setting your water heater to 120 degrees and install anti-scald devices on sinks, tubs and showers. Have a smoke alarm in the kitchen and in all bedrooms and test them regularly. When cooking, wear snug-fitting or short-sleeve clothing and high-quality oven mitts that cover the lower part of your arms.
Have a safe and happy Older Americans Month. Go out and give a hug of appreciation to a senior. To learn more about Older Americans Month, log on to acl.gov/olderamericansmonth.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of community education at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.