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Each May, the nation celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize the contributions of older Americans, and to provide information to help them stay healthy and active.

The theme for 2014 – Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow – focuses on injury prevention.

Older adults are at a much higher risk of unintentional injury and even death than the rest of the population. Unintentional injuries to this population result in at least 6 million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year.

With a focus on safety during Older Americans Month, the Administration for Community Living – an organization within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – is aiming to spread the message that by taking control of their safety, older Americans can live longer, healthier lives.

Here in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Aging encourages residents to use the month to become more aware of the impact of falls on our elders and learn about the state's falls-prevention initiative, STEADY U Ohio. Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov to learn more about the initiative, take a Falls Risk Self-Assessment, get helpful safety tips and more. Follow STEADY U Ohio on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates.

The Administration for Community Living offers these safety tips to keep in mind during Older Americans Month and beyond:

Talk to your healthcare provider
• Discuss physical activities that are appropriate for you. Regular exercise helps to improve endurance, strength, balance, and coordination.

• Have your vision checked regularly. Your sight plays a large part in preventing injuries at home, on the road, and in the community.
Manage medications

• Be aware of how your medications interact with other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, certain foods, alcohol, and other medical conditions.

• Learn how medications may make you unsteady on your feet or impact your ability to operate a motor vehicle.

• Create a medication schedule or use a scheduler box to make sure you take no less or more than prescribed.

• Ask your pharmacist for help. Large-print labels, medication-tracking devices and easy-open containers may be available.


Prevent falls
• Install handrails and grab bars wherever they are helpful, especially around stairs and in bathrooms.

• Ensure ample lighting inside and outside of your home, particularly around frequently used walkways. Add one or more nightlights between your bedroom and bathroom.

• Choose shoes with non-slip soles that provide support without bulk that could cause you to trip.

• Use a walking aid, if needed to improve balance and stability.


Prevent fires and burns
• Set your water heater to 120 degrees. You can also install anti-scald devices on sinks, tubs, and showers.

• Test smoke detectors regularly. Be sure you have a smoke alarm in or very near your cooking area. Alarms should also be installed in all bedrooms.

• When cooking, wear snug-fitting or short-sleeve clothing and high-quality oven mitts that cover the lower part of your arms.

• Do not smoke in your home, especially if oxygen therapy is used.

Drive wisely
• Do not smoke in your home, especially if oxygen therapy is used.

• Know when it might be time to limit or stop driving, and learn how to get around town without driving.

Learn more about Older Americans Month and find additional resources at http://acl.gov/olderamericansmonth


About Older Americans Month
When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs. Interest in older Americans and their concerns was growing, however. In April of 1963, President John F. Kennedy's meeting with the National Council of Senior Citizens served as a prelude to designating May as “Senior Citizens Month.”

Thanks to President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 designation, what was once called Senior Citizens Month, is now called “Older Americans Month,“ and has become a tradition.

Historically, Older Americans Month has been a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country, in particular those who defended our country. Every President since JFK has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking that the entire nation pay tribute in some way to older persons in their communities.

Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country through ceremonies, events, fairs, and other such activities. Visit www.acl.gov/olderamericansmonth for more information.

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