Elderly Falls Tied to Canes and Walkers

Tips for Safe Use

More than 47,000 elderly falls occur in America each year that result in emergency room visits. Data from 2001 to 2006 shows that 129 Americans older than 65 were treated each day in emergency rooms for injuries resulting from falls using walkers and canes. Of the falls related to walkers and canes, you may be surprised to learn that most—87% of elderly falls—were attributable to walker use.

Older man walking with cane on dirt road

Serge Vuillermoz / EyeEm / Getty Images

Walkers Involved in More Falls Than Canes

People were 7 times more likely to be injured by a fall when using a walker rather than a cane. Seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? Further study is needed, but it could be that people who use walkers and canes are more fragile and therefore more likely to fall than those who don't use them.

Approximately 78% of walker-related injuries and 66% of cane-related injuries happened to women. Clearly, walkers and canes are walking aids that are important for elderly people to maintain their mobility—and independence. But the proper and safe use of mobility aids is essential. Otherwise, falls can have severe health consequences.

The Magnitude of the Problem

There were other interesting findings in the CDC report that highlight the significance of the problem:

  • The chance of sustaining a fall, among those who used walkers or canes, increased with age, with the highest rate among people 85 and older.
  • Fractures were the most common injury associated with falls, and a third involved the lower trunk (i.e., hip, pelvis).
  • More than half of the elderly fall injuries occurred at home.
  • One in three people whose fall occurred with a walker and more than one in four whose fall occurred while using a cane had to be hospitalized.

The problem is very real. And the solution, somewhat obvious. People over 65 years old should:

It's important to choose a cane or walker that suits you in terms of design, fit, and feel. It's equally important to learn how to use your cane or walker properly—with the help of a physical therapist or ​other medical professional.

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By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer who covers arthritis and chronic illness. She is the author of "The Everything Health Guide to Arthritis."