Morning Consult: Vast Majority of Older Americans are Worried About Falling and Urge Congress to Expand Access to Fall Prevention Services 

87% of older Americans support the bipartisan Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly (SAFE) Act to expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to comprehensive falls risk assessment and prevention services at no cost to patients

WASHINGTON – The Alliance for Physical Therapy Quality and Innovation (APTQI) today highlighted a new Morning Consult report that underscores older Americans’ anxiety about falling and their overwhelming desire for access to fall risk assessments and preventative services provided by falls experts.

The nationwide survey found that older Americans are deeply concerned with the potential injuries and costs associated with falls. Specifically, 71% of older Americans are concerned about falls and nearly half (42%) reported having a personal experience with a fall in their household. Many of these falls resulted in serious injury and required a visit to the emergency room, ambulatory services, long-term hospitalization, and surgery.

Across the nation, tens of thousands of older Americans fall every day. These numbers are rising, and the CDC projects that 52 million falls will occur every year by 2030—a rate of more than one fall every second of every day—with estimated annual costs totaling $100 billion. In fact, the CDC has already determined that falling is the #1 cause of injury and injury-related death among older Americans.

The Morning Consult survey also highlights the value older Americans place on expanded access to physical and occupational therapy, which help prevent falls and maintain patients’ quality of life and independence. As falls experts, physical and occupational therapists are uniquely qualified to provide falls risk assessments to determine each patient’s vulnerabilities and to tailor preventative services to help keep them on their feet. Unfortunately, these vital services—which are wildly popular among older Americans and across party lines—are not covered by Medicare’s annual wellness visits or physical exams. If such coverage was available, millions of older individuals would benefit from lowered risks of serious falls.

“This new data reaffirms what physical therapists have long understood: older Americans are deeply concerned about the risks of falls, so they value the preventative services physical and occupational therapy provides,” said Nikesh Patel, PT, Executive Director of APTQI.

To help address the senior falls epidemic, bipartisan lawmakers in Congress have introduced the Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly (SAFE) Act (H.R. 7618). If enacted, the SAFE Act would allow older Americans to receive a comprehensive, no-cost falls risk assessment from a physical or occupational therapist—the fall prevention experts—as part of their annual wellness visit without any additional out-of-pocket cost. This legislation is an important step in protecting the health and autonomy of older Americans, while reducing healthcare spending, decreasing opioid dependence, and improving patients’ quality of life.

According to the survey, 87% of older Americans support the SAFE Act, including 90% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans. Additionally, 69% of seniors surveyed said they will be more likely to vote for a candidate that supports the SAFE Act.

“Seniors desperately want access to no-cost falls risk assessments and their overwhelming support of the SAFE Act speaks volumes,” Patel continued. “APTQI applauds Representatives Carol Miller and Melanie Stansbury for introducing the SAFE Act, and we urge lawmakers and public health advocates to support this important bipartisan legislation. With the SAFE Act, we can prevent painful injuries, save lives, preserve independence, and mitigate healthcare costs.”

# # #