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Fear Of Falling Can Cause Falls

CAROUSEL - People gather amid damaged fruit and vegetable stalls following a car bombing in Charsadda, Pakistan, Nov. 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)
AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad
Studies indicate that 30 to 50 percent of seniors have a fear of falling, and experts now believe that the fear itself is a major contributor to many falls.

But, some seniors are now talking about their fear and overcoming it.

A seminar held at the Riverdale Senior Center in New York is all about facing fear, The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reported.

"The fear of falling is both the cause of the falls and a consequence of falls," said Dr. Pat Miller. "It's a bigger fear than fear of being robbed."

Miller is an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Columbia University and she overses the seminar. She says that living with a fear of falling can have serious consequences.

"People begin to have negative thoughts," Miller said. "They become less mobile. As they become more sedentary, they become weaker ... It's an inactivity cycle that spirals downward."

Many elderly fear falling for good reason. One third of seniors over 65 fall each year, and of those, 50 percent fall repeatedly.

"This morning I feel while getting out of bed," said senior Olaf Hansen. "I have a trick knee and the knee gave out so I fell forward and to the right and there was an open door and my head hit the door and that was it. It's common among the old people who can't afford to fall because they have brittle bones."

"I have fallen many times in the last ten years, many times at about the rate of twice a year," said Shirley Keegan. "It's very frightening. You don't know you're going to fall. It's very unexpected. And as you're going down, you're saying 'Oh no, I'm so afraid because I don't want to fall.'"

Seniors at the Riverdale Senior Center seminar are facing down their fears and learning to avoid falls.

Miller says physical fitness is important because it help decrease falls in the elderly. He explains staying fit will lead to greater bone mineral density.

The seniors say they won't let a fear of falling stop them from leading a full life.

"This is in my mind. I don't want to fall, I'm afraid," said Keegan. "But damn it, I'm not going to let this keep me home. I'm not going to let it stop me from doing my activities."