Falls are a threat to the health and independence of older adults, but there are plenty of opportunities to prevent an accident before it happens, starting with removing the hazards you can easily eliminate.

Lucy Riegel has gone up and down the front steps of her home for more than 20 years, but last month she slipped and fell.

My femur broke at the upper end, straight across, plus a little piece shattered off, Riegel said.

It was totally unexpected, because she is very healthy, said her husband Bob.

It meant surgery and weeks of rehab. Therapists see it all the time.

A lot of it is just losing their balance from turning too quickly. A lot of it is just when people are in a hurry and they are not watching what they are doing, says physical therapy assistant Brandi Girder.

For the patients, the focus is on strength, balance, mobility and mindful movement, like on stairs.

When you have a bad leg when you are going up, it's good leg first, full on the tread, then the bad leg full on the tread. When you come down, you take the bad leg down first and then the good leg, Riegel said.

Then there are common household hazards, like throw rugs. Bob put most in a pile and started looking at everything through new eyes.

You just become very aware of what you think are ordinary thresholds between rooms suddenly look like that mountains, he said.

They have handles in their bathroom, which are key for safety. But perhaps the biggest change is yet to come, out front what the Riegels call the scene of the crime.

I am going to have a ramp put in from my front door all the way down to the street sidewalk, Lucy said.

It will mirror the ramp in the back, which she will be using in the meantime.

Falls are the number one cause of injury-related death among seniors and most likely the reason older people look the ability to live independently.

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