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Making Streets and Sidewalks Safe for Seniors

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – The next step in a community-wide falls prevention program was launched Tuesday in Buffalo. Seventy-five volunteers hit the streets near senior centers and apartment complexes to see how safe the areas are for walking.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's full story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.

The walkability study is the second phase of a comprehensive falls prevention program sponsored by the Community Health Foundation. There are about two dozen health care organizations participating with the Western New York Falls Prevention Consortium. Earlier this year, the consortium launched a campaign aimed at detecting and mitigating fall hazards in the homes of the elderly. Now, the program hopes to lower the risk of falling when the elderly walk outside their homes.

Bill Armbruster is associate director for the state office of AARP. He says the study is looking for more than cracks in sidewalks.

The total annual cost of fall related injuries in Erie county in just one year was a staggering $150 million. But the human cost is greater. About 45 people die each year from fall related injuries. Nearly 3,000 require hosipalization. Lawmaker Tim Kennedy says as an occupational thera[ist he knows how devasting falls can be.

Volunteers walked the streets in fourteen areas around Buffalo and Western New York where many elderly people live and gather, including senior centers. Results of the study will be shared with elected leaders, urging them to create safe walking conditions.