Older people should walk cautiously on escalators and perhaps consider taking the elevator if they have trouble balancing. These recommendations and others are the result of new research into escalator safety conducted at the Indiana University School of Medicine and recently published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.
Researchers in this latest study reviewed U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data concerning escalator-related injuries among adults 65 and older between 1991 and 2005 — injuries which contributed to 39,850 U.S. emergency room visits. During the course of the study, the rate of injuries steadily rose, doubling altogether by the end of the research period. The average age of a person injured on an escalator was about 80 years, and nearly three-quarters of the injuries were reported by women.
Approximately 25% of the injuries were to the lower extremities, and another 25% involved the head. Soft tissue injuries were the most common, accounting for more than 50% of the injuries, followed by lacerations (22.3%) and bone fractures (15.6 %). Researchers noted that the older a person was, the more likely her or she was to sustain a head injury. Most of those injuries were related to slips, trips and falls.
Among other recommendations, authors of the study advise that older adults shouldn’t attempt to walk up a moving escalator, carry large objects, or wear loose garments while riding escalators, since these behaviors appear to be associated with an increased risk of falling. They also note that while anyone of any age can be injured on an escalator, older adults face a particularly high risk of serious outcomes as a result of their injuries.
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