Feb. 11, 2010 -- Elevators may be one of the safest forms of transportation, but a new study shows they can be a potentially dangerous location for accidents and injuries among the elderly.
Researchers found more than 2,600 older adults wind up in the emergency room each year as a result of an elevator-related injury.
More than half of elevator-related injuries are the result of a slip, trip, or fall; about one-third were the result of the elevator door closing on the user.
"Elevator-related injuries are not accidental, they are easily preventable," says researcher Greg Steele, DrPH, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology in the department of public health at the Indiana University School of Medicine, in a news release. "Individuals of any age, but especially older adults, who often have vision or balance issues, should not stick an arm or leg or walker into the path of a closing elevator door."
Researchers say it's the first major study of elevator-related injuries among older adults.
Nearly 120 billion people enter an estimated 660,000 elevators each year in the U.S. Older adults are more likely to use elevators than stairs to safely move between floors.
But researchers say misalignment between the floor of the hallway and the floor of the elevator compartment can make it difficult for an older adult to maneuver and is a common cause of falls. Falls among the elderly are one of the leading causes of death and disability among the elderly.
Using information collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, researchers found that 44,870 elevator-related injuries severe enough to require treatment in an emergency room were reported among adults 65 and older from 1990 to 2006.
Slips, trips, and falls accounted for more than half (51%) of all injuries reported among the elderly. Soft-tissue injury, such as bruises or sprains, was the most common type of injury, accounting for 48% of all injuries reported. The next most common type of injury was a fracture, followed by cuts, including amputation.
More than 40% of admissions to the hospital for elevator-related injuries were due to fractured hips.
Researchers found that the rate of elevator-related accidents and injuries increases with age. Three-fourths of the injuries involved older women. The injury rate was seven times higher among those 85 and older than with those 65-69.
Researchers say simple changes, such as painting the edge between the elevator compartment and hallway floor a bright color, could significantly reduce elevator-related accidents. Meanwhile, they urge everyone heading toward an elevator to slow down and wait for the next car rather than risk injury.