Texas: While elevators are considered one of the safest forms of transportation, they can pose a real danger for the aging population, says a new study.
According to US Consumer Product Safety Commission data, approximately 44,870 (about 2,640 annually) elevator-related injuries, severe enough to require a visit to a hospital emergency department, occurred in individuals 65 years and older from 1990 to 2006.
Hip fracture was the most common diagnosis for the 14 per cent admitted to the hospital.
Three-fourths of these injuries involved older women.
More than half of the elevator-related injuries to older adults were the result of a slip, trip or fall and about one-third were the result of the elevator door closing on the individual.
The research also showed that Injuries related to wedging a walker in the elevator door opening was the third most frequent category.
The overall injury rate from 1990 to 2006 was seven times greater in the 85 and older group than in the 65-69 age group.
Of all injuries among older adults, almost half were soft tissue injuries such as a sprain or bruise. The next most frequently recorded types of injury were fractures and lacerations, including finger or toe amputation.
"Elevator-related injuries are not accidental they are easily preventable. 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," said Greg Steele, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., associate professor of epidemiology in the Department of Public Health at the IU School of Medicine.
"Elevator open buttons should be made twice the size of the other elevator buttons so they are not hard to find by passengers who want to stop the door from closing on an approaching individual. This would be very inexpensive to change because electronics don`t have to be altered, just the button. Certainly all newly installed or updated elevators should have such buttons," Steele added.
Misalignment, when the floor of the room and the floor of the elevator compartment are not perfectly even, is difficult for older adults with vision problems to see and a frequent cause of slips, trips and falls.
"Older adults should be informed of the hazards associated with elevators and should use caution when entering or exiting an elevator. Elevators should be monitored to ensure that they are in good working condition to minimize hazards that could lead to elevator-related injuries," said co-author Dr Joseph O`Neil, associate professor of paediatrics and a Riley Hospital for Children developmental paediatricians who studies preventable injuries.
The study appears in The Journal of Trauma Injury, Infection, and Critical Care.