This spring 80 senior citizens in Prince William County learned about their risk of falling and how to reduce that risk. They took this proactive health measure by attending two free community screenings offered by Project Mend-A-House and funded by a Virginia Department of Health grant.

“We are proud to help these senior citizens understand that falls are not an inevitable part of aging. The more you know about your personal risk, the more you may be able to reduce your risk of falling,” said Kristen Hull, interim executive director of Project Mend-A-House. “We are grateful that the Virginia Department of Health made this community health program possible.”

Project Mend-A-House is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that serves low-income seniors, veterans and people with disabilities in Prince William County, the City of Manassas, and Manassas Park. Volunteers repair broken fixtures, install safety equipment, build accessibility ramps, and perform other tasks that enable home owners to live longer at home. As part of its mission, Project Mend-A-House aims to reduce the risk of falls in homes.

The fall risk screenings took place on April 27 at Grace United Methodist Church in Manassas and on May 3 at the Sharron Baucom-Dale City Recreation Center. Adults over 60 could attend at no charge. Volunteers strongly supported the events, including doctors, physical therapists, pharmacists, nurses, ophthalmologists, audiologists, students in related medical fields, and professionals from local assisted living facilities and organizations focused on serving seniors.All participants had the opportunity to participate voluntarily in a research project headed by the Locomotion Research Department from Virginia Tech. The project’s goal is to further the development of new technology to help prevent falls among older adults by studying the relationships between gait, mobility and falls.  

“The fall risk screenings address a critical need in Virginia. The most recent data reveal that falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury hospitalization and death among our seniors,” said Tony Schaffer, chairman of the NVFPC. “Based on statistics, the cost of falls among our elder Virginians exceeds $1,000,000,000 annually and we feel this is a very conservative number. This number will continue to rise as our population ages.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports that falls are the leading cause of injury and death among adults age 65 and older, and 20-30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, often fatal in older adults. Men are more likely than women to die from a fall.

To see photos of the April 27 Project Mend-A-House fall risk screening, visit Fall Risk Screening. To learn more about Project Mend-A-House, visit www.pmahweb.org or call (703) 792-6402.

The fall risk screenings drew upon the model developed and tested at senior centers by the Northern Virginia Fall Prevention Coalition (NVFPC).

During the screenings, participants had their blood pressure checked at registration and then heard a welcome from a Project Mend-A-House representative. After this they visited four stations for the medical checks. They had their vision tested by an ophthalmologist and their gait and balance evaluated by a physical therapist. A pharmacist reviewed their medications. Then each participant met with a nurse, who discussed and explained the results. The participants also could have their hearing checked by an audiologist, and they could request that their results be sent to their primary care physicians. All left with folders filled with suggestions and recommendations on how to reduce or eliminate their risks of falling.