Fall Prevention Week Ignores Outdoor Perils


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It's not just falls in the home that older New Yorkers should know about



So who knew the first week of autumn was designated Fall Prevention Week? After all, falls are the leading cause of serious injury and even premature death among the rapidly growing 65-plus age group. Falls also cost the health care system very big bucks. So what's needed are Spring, Summer, Winter as well as Fall Prevention Weeks! And a whole lot of media alerts and coverage.


So who knew? I only knew because two friends did, a retired high school principal, and a retired RN and science teacher, who so importantly, were also devoted caregivers for their ill husbands. Claire and Ruth knew because they were on New York - Presbyterian's Health Forums list and they shared the Fall Prevention at Home handout with me.


Sure there's a lot we need to know about home prevention, but we three militant elders are most concerned that nothing is said about what others must do to prevent falling risks, especially outside the home. For government, whose first duty is to protect public safety, safe travel conditions are not a top priority. Yet traffic law-breaking vehicles are the primary dangers out there for every walker, but especially elder ones.


There are also uneven crosswalk surfaces which can upend those whose balance is not 20/20, and must peer down for street bumps as well as glance left and right for drivers and bicyclists too, who fail to yield when turning into their crosswalks. And two-wheelers are often allergic to the laws of the road. Indeed all city vehicles should make a nice little warning sound. Crackdown on Kamikaze walkers, in general. They can also topple a vulnerable pedestrian.


But what to do about the explosion of small fries heedlessly riding bikes and scooters on sidewalks and park paths? What to do about the unconcerned parents and nannies, is more like it. There once was a time in Manhattan when youngsters rarely rode bikes. Silent scooters didn't exist. And yet kids managed quite well with just walking and their running was mostly confined to playgrounds and parks. Ah, New York was once such a great walking city - for everyone.


Other outdoor falling risk dangers include city buses, which elders especially rely on. Now some able-bodied riders still don't give their seat to those who are not, despite signs to remind them and an occasional mention from the MTA Command Center heard over the bus's loudspeaker.


Rear door exiting is risky for many elder riders, and many desperately need drivers to pull the front entrance door to the curb but are too timid to ask. So the command center must also announce often and loud: "This bus pulls to the curb whenever possible!"


Sure, there's much we must do to protect ourselves, not only from falling, but to ensure that those hired or elected to protect the citizenry must at least reduce the fore-mentioned dangers. We also have a dream of a citizenry concerned with heedless everyday actions on these finite streets, walkways and in all shared spaces, which especially threaten the vulnerable - often elder New Yorkers.


And we dream that their voices will be heard in "senior" faith, health, civic and surely political groups because they'll be enabled to get there, even after dark or in stormy weather.


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