Beyond Injuries, The Mental Health Toll of Falls


If an older adult suffers a fall, the physical injuries can be easily quantified – hip fractures, traumatic brain injuries and other serious outcomes that result in a visit to an emergency room are noted and recorded, used to provide information and context on this pressing issue.

Those physical injuries tend to be top of mind for both older adults and their loved ones when considering the outcomes of a fall, but the aftermath of a fall, even one where a serious physical injury is avoided, can result in another consequence that’s not easy to measure: mental health concerns.

If an older adult suffers an injury that requires an arduous recovery, the fear of having to go through that again is prevalent.

However, even after a fall in which an older adult avoids serious injury, mental health can still become a significant issue. An older adult likely knows that should they sustain another fall they may not escape injury the next time.

As such, those fears can lead to people withdrawing from day-to-day activities to try to limit the chances they may suffer a fall. But by withdrawing, it can then lead to loneliness, isolation and depression in an age group that is already susceptible to those issues.

Furthermore, by limiting day-to-day activity, their physical health can suffer as a result, which in turn increases fall risk in itself as remaining sedentary for longer periods can lead to weakness in the muscles. Fearing a fall, withdrawing, and thus becoming more susceptible to a fall is a vicious cycle that many older adults fall into, and the mental health toll is significant as a result.

Mental Health in Older Adults

Part of the reason the fear of falling can have a detrimental impact on an older adult’s mental health is that that demographic is already susceptible to mental health concerns to begin with and adding the depression and isolation that can come from a fear of falling exacerbates what may be an already underlying distress.

It’s particularly concerning as that age group is often one where it can still often be seen as taboo to discuss it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the rate of older adults with depressive symptoms tends to increase with age… Unfortunately, depressive disorders are a widely under-recognized condition and often are untreated or undertreated among older adults.”

If your loved one lives alone, or even if they live with you, it’s important to notice any changes in their habits and encourage an open, honest dialogue about their concerns or fears.

Exercise Can Help

Many falls occur because of the natural deterioration of muscle mass in our bodies as we age. One way for older adults to mitigate that risk is with exercise, and Prestige Senior Living’s fitness programming helps residents build and maintain strength to help reduce falls.

The benefits of fitness are more than physical though – exercise can be as important for mental health as it is for physical health.

Engaging in a regular fitness routine has a wide array of valuable outcomes for older adults. At Prestige, our programs are tailored for residents of any ability level – even if someone needs to sit to perform the exercise, we accommodate their needs. The important thing is that they’re taking part and enjoying the physical and mental health benefits that come from regular fitness.

It can be especially helpful in our communities as we conduct classes in group settings, adding a social element to help foster friendships and camaraderie.

Prestige Is Here For Our Residents

At Prestige, our fitness and wellness programs like Energize Exercise, Ageless Grace® and our fall reduction classes help residents reduce the risk of falling by helping build their strength.

But on top of that, our team members get to know our residents as individuals, and that connection helps them notice when a resident may not seem like themself. Whether it’s because of a fall or the fear of one, we notice when someone might be struggling and needing a little extra support.

To learn more about how we approach the topic with our residents and their families, contact the community nearest you to set up a tour.