Ted Tzirimis headshot
Ted Tzirimis

As our population ages, the spotlight on older adult falls and their effects within senior living communities has intensified, demanding greater awareness and action. Falls among older adults are alarmingly common, posing significant health risks and financial burdens.

The impact of falls extends beyond individual health concerns. The economic toll of falls on senior living operators is substantial, with costs incurred from medical care, rehabilitation and potential litigation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately each year, $50 billion is spent on medical expenses associated with falls among older adults, with fatal injuries accounting for $754 million and the rest linked to nonfatal fall injuries.

For senior living communities, this translates into heightened operational expenses and potential reputational damage. According to McKnight’s Senior Living, “Across assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities, the annual direct cost of all falls was $380,000 per location. For providers with 20 or more locations, the average cost was $712,000, and for providers with 19 or fewer facilities, the cost was $158,000 per location.”

Let’s take another look at those numbers: $380,000 per location. Multiplying that out across 20 communities and we’re looking at a deficit of $7.6 million. That’s a staggering number. And it’s impossible to quantify the damage being done to residents who experience falls, from painful injuries all the way up to loss of life.

Residents are losing, family members are losing, and senior housing operators are losing.

Despite concerted efforts to mitigate fall risks within those communities, challenges persist. Factors such as declining sensory perception, reduced mobility, medication side effects and environmental hazards contribute to the vulnerability of older adults to falls. Traditional safety measures, although essential, may not always suffice in addressing the multifaceted nature of this issue.

Innovations in technology offer a promising avenue for enhancing falls prevention efforts in senior living communities. By leveraging fall detection devices, communities can bolster safety measures and empower residents to live independently with greater confidence.

In a study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, research found that computers, the internet, smart devices and mobile phone apps are effective tools in managing health conditions and supporting well-being. In addition, the World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, approximately one-sixth of the global population will be 60 years or older, emphasizing the imperative for technologic advancements to prioritize age-friendly and user-friendly designs for older adults.

Obtainable and easily implementable

Let’s take a look at a range of obtainable and easily implementable technologic advancements aimed at promoting safety in senior living.

Wearable devices: With the advent of wearable technologies such as Rythmos, equipped with advanced sensors and accelerometers, there’s been a notable stride in fall detection and prevention. Those devices, ranging from discreet smart watches to pendants, offer continuous monitoring of vital signs and movement patterns. In the event of a fall, they promptly alert caregivers or emergency services. Research has indicated that wearable fall detection devices can significantly increase emergency response times, improving the likelihood of timely intervention and reducing the severity of injuries.

Smart home automation: Integrating smart home automation systems into a falls prevention strategy enables real-time monitoring of older adults’ living environments, identifying potential fall hazards and promoting proactive risk mitigation. Sensors embedded in doorways, floors and furniture can detect deviations from normal activity patterns, triggering alerts for caregivers or facility staff. Additionally, voice-activated assistants and smart lighting systems enhance accessibility and safety within senior living spaces.

Telehealth and remote monitoring: Telehealth services offer a convenient and accessible means of healthcare delivery for seniors, facilitating remote consultations, medication management and chronic disease monitoring. By using telehealth platforms, older adults can receive timely medical attention and guidance, reducing the likelihood of health complications that may contribute to falls. Remote monitoring technologies further enhance care coordination by enabling healthcare providers to remotely track patients’ vital signs and mobility metrics.

Virtual reality rehabilitation: Virtual reality rehabilitation programs hold promise for improving balance, coordination and mobility among older adults at risk of falls. VR-based exercises offer immersive and engaging experiences, simulating real-world scenarios to enhance motor skills and spatial awareness. Research indicates that VR interventions can yield significant improvements in balance and reduce fall risk among older adults.

Community engagement and education: Community-wide initiatives focused on falls prevention education and support play a crucial role in fostering a culture of safety within senior living environments. Educational workshops, group exercise classes, and home safety assessments empower older adults to proactively address fall risks and adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors. Engaging residents, family members and staff members in collaborative efforts reinforces a shared commitment to promoting safety and well-being.

By embracing technologic innovations and fostering collaborative partnerships, senior living communities can proactively address the complex challenge of falls among older adults. In doing so, they not only enhance the quality of life of their residents but also safeguard the reputation of their communities in an increasingly competitive landscape. As we navigate the dynamics of an aging population, investing in innovative solutions for fall prevention becomes not only a strategic imperative but also a testament to our commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of older adults within senior living communities.

Ted Tzirimis is the CEO of Intrex, manufacturer of Rythmos, a wearable tech solution for senior safety. Tzirimis has an extensive background in senior care spanning over two decades, including notable roles at The Medical Team. He champions advancements in technology that can help empower seniors to age gracefully and preserve their independence.

A senior living community’s use of Rythmos won a McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Award in 2023 in the Quality category of the Senior Living track.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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