Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), joined by U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), announced the passage of S. Res 553 designating September 22, 2012, the first day of fall, as “National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.”  A similar bill was passed last year.

“Falls are a leading cause of injuries, hospitalizations and death among older Americans,” said Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “Fall prevention programs are a solid investment that save people’s lives and help curb billions of dollars in federal spending on treatment costs.”

“Falls don’t discriminate – nearly everyone has a friend or family member who has fallen,” Mikulski said. “This is an important public health issue for seniors and their families, which is why I fought hard for legislation to make elder falls prevention a priority. I will continue to fight to end falls through public education, community-based falls prevention programs, and research.”

“As the average age of Americans increases, so does the need to continue helping older Americans prevent falls,” said Enzi. “By recognizing the impact that these injuries have on American families, this resolution will bring more attention to education and prevention of traumatic injuries that often result from falls.  Increasing awareness will lead to creative solutions to reduce the risk of falls and allow seniors to live with the maximum amount of dignity and independence.”

“Fall-related injuries have a devastating impact on the lives of our seniors, their families and their communities,” Collins said.  “Our goal is to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers, and family members to play a part in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older adult population.”

“Far too many seniors are injured each year in Connecticut as a result of falling,” said Blumenthal. “This is an important public health issue for families in Connecticut and across the country, and we must raise awareness about fall prevention to help vulnerable seniors avoid injury. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to raise awareness and reduce these tragic injuries.”

“Something as simple as ensuring older adults receive a nutritious meal through the Older Americans Act congregate and home-delivered meals programs, can reduce the likelihood of a fall and prevent a costly trip to the emergency room or a nursing home,” said Sanders. “Far too many older Americans suffer serious injuries and even die due to preventable falls. These programs make sense from both a financial and human perspective.”

“Injuries and costs stemming from preventable falls can have a devastating impact on the life of older Pennsylvanians,” Casey said. “Preventing falls reduces the financial burden of treatment and improves quality of life, so it is imperative to keep awareness of prevention measures high and support efforts to protect older Pennsylvanians.”

As a leading cause of injuries among people 65 and older, falls have a substantial impact on the lives of Americans, their families, communities and society. The most recent data show that in 2010, 2.3 million older adults were treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls, and that 650,000 were hospitalized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 20,000 older adults died from injuries related to unintended falls in 2008.  Further, the CDC estimates the total cost of fall-related injuries for older adults is $80.9 billion, including more than $28.3 billion in direct medical costs.

Most of these expenses are paid for by the federal government through Medicare reimbursements.  According to the CDC, it is projected that if the rate of increase in falls is not slowed, annual costs under Medicare will reach $59.6 billion by 2020.  These estimates do not include other ancillary costs, such as caregiver time, reduced functional capacity or decreased quality of life.

A number of evidence-based interventions have been designed and tested to reduce the risk of falling.  Approaches include comprehensive clinical assessments, exercise programs to improve balance and strength, management of medications, correction of vision, and reduction of home hazards.

This cause is backed by the National Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group, including leading experts representing senior citizens, health professionals and safety experts, such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation, the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, National Council on Aging, RebuildingTogether, the Safe States Alliance, the Alliance for Aging Research, and the YMCA of the USA.