NEWS | November 1, 2012

Free community workshops to help seniors avoid falls

New UC Davis falls-prevention program designed to reduce leading cause of injury death for Americans 65 and older


UC Davis Health System's Trauma Prevention Program and its Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation are seeking participants for a new community health initiative designed to reduce falls among older adults. Falls are the leading cause of injury death for Americans 65 years and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seniors taking class © iStockphoto Seniors taking class © iStockphoto

The health system is piloting a program of community-based workshops called "Stepping On," which has been shown to be highly effective in preventing falls. Stepping On consists of weekly workshops that provide attendees with suggestions about improving balance and strength, ideas about needed home modifications, and insights into medications, footwear and sleep.

UC Davis plans to launch the Stepping On program with a pair of free seven-week sessions for seniors age 65 and older. The first weekly session begins Wednesday, Nov. 7; the second session starts on Jan. 2. For more information about the program, or to register, call (916) 734-9794, email or visit

"Every year we admit hundreds of seniors to our hospital because they have fallen at home," said Christy Adams, coordinator for the Trauma Prevention Program. "Last year, more than 400 people over the age of 65 came to UC Davis Medical Center because of fall-related injuries. We know those numbers can be reduced, and this program is recognized for helping older adults remain safely active and healthy."

Stepping On was developed by an Australia-based occupational therapist. It is designed to heighten awareness and enable older adults to adopt healthy behaviors that can help them reduce the risks of falls. An evaluation of the program in a 2004 Journal of American Geriatrics Society article found that participants experienced a 31-percent reduction in falls after completing the seven-week course.

According to the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate-to-severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures or head traumas. Even if no injuries occur after a fall, many people develop a fear of falling, which in turn often causes them to limit their activities. This can result in reduced mobility and loss of physical conditioning, thereby increasing the risk of falling.

"We see too many patients with injuries that we know could have been avoided," said Bryan Barry, section chief for UC Davis Outpatient Therapy. "In addition to helping people recover from injuries and disease, much of our work consists of education and training. These workshops complement our mission perfectly." 

The falls-prevention pilot project is a collaboration between UC Davis Health System and the California Department of Public Health, Safe and Active Communities Branch. Once the two initial sessions are completed next year, UC Davis will become a Stepping On program leader and begin offering the falls-prevention workshops at no charge throughout the year. 

UC Davis Health System is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. The academic health system includes one of the country's best medical schools, a 619-bed acute-care teaching hospital, a 1000-member physician's practice group and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. It is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, an international neurodevelopmental institute, a stem cell institute and a comprehensive children's hospital. Other nationally prominent centers focus on advancing telemedicine, improving vascular care, eliminating health disparities and translating research findings into new treatments for patients. Together, they make UC Davis a hub of innovation that is transforming health for all. For more information, visit