Association between Recent Falls and Changes in Outdoor Environments near Community-Dwelling Older Adults’ Homes over Time: Findings from the NHATS Study
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Neighborhood environments have been increasingly associated with incidents of falling and the fear of falling. However, little is known about the causal impact of neighborhood environments on falling. This study identifies whether changes in outdoor environmental attributes over a one-year period are associated with the occurrence of recent falls among community-dwelling older adults aged 65 and older in the United States. Data were obtained from 4802 adults aged 65 years or older from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS). Logistic regression analyses were performed to identify neighborhood risk factors linked to the odds of experiencing recent falls at the one-year follow-up. Almost one in ten subjects (9.7% of 4802 subjects) who had not fallen before reported experiencing recent falls after one year. After adjusting for sociodemographic, health, and walking-related behavioral covariates, these subjects were more likely to reside in areas with higher environmental barriers on sidewalks/streets and uneven walking surfaces or broken steps, compared to non-fallers. Our findings suggest that safe and well-maintained outdoor environments may help prevent falls among community-dwelling older adults who engage in outdoor activities. Clinical and environmental interventions for promoting both safe walking and safe environments are warranted.
author list (cited authors)
Lee, S., Lee, C., & Ory, M. G.