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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Escalators Shaky Ground for Some Seniors

Escalator-Related Injuries Among People Aged 65 and Older Doubled From 1991 to 2005
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 14, 2008 -- Escalator injuries are a growing problem among people aged 65 and older, prompting experts to issue advice on escalator safety for older adults.

In a new report, researchers estimate that from 1991 to 2005, almost 40,000 people aged 65 and older went to U.S. emergency rooms because of escalator-related injuries. And during those years, the rate of escalator injuries doubled for people in that age group.

The reasons for the rise in the escalator-injury rate among people aged 65 and older aren't clear from the data. But researcher Joseph O'Neil, MD, MPH, of Indiana University, has a theory about it.

"My suspicion is that we see this increase because older adults may be more active in the community, visiting more public places and so [have] more exposures to escalators and unfortunately escalator-related injuries have occurred," O'Neil tells WebMD via email.

The findings appear in the March edition of Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Escalator Injury Study

Among people aged 65 and older who sought emergency care for escalator injuries, 92% were treated and released from hospital emergency rooms.

Their most common escalator injuries were fractures, bruises, scrapes, sprains, and strains to their legs or head.

People in their 80s were more likely than people in their 60s to visit hospital ERs because of escalator injuries.

The estimates are based on Consumer Product Safety Commission data gathered by 98 U.S. hospitals. Escalator injuries that didn't prompt a hospital visit aren't included in the study.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Most of the escalator injuries happened when seniors slipped, tripped, or fell, usually when stepping onto or off of an escalator.

Some people got injured because they lost their balance or got dizzy. Others got a shoe, clothing, bag, or package caught in an escalator, or they collided with someone else on the escalator.

Escalators are safe, but falls can still occur, write the researchers, who provide the following escalator safety tips for older adults:

  • Use caution when riding an escalator, especially when stepping on or off.
  • Don't try to walk up a moving escalator.
  • Don't carry large objects on an escalator.
  • Don't wear loose garments while riding an escalator.
  • If you have trouble walking or maintaining balance, consider using an elevator.

It's not just older adults who sometimes have trouble with escalators. Previous research shows that about 2,000 children per year are injured on escalators.

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