Are Falls the New Pandemic?

May 29, 2023 Joe Brady

Physical inactivity is a pervasive problem in the United States, with serious consequences for health and well-being. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of a sedentary lifestyle. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this problem has only gotten worse, with many seniors experiencing isolation and a lack of opportunities for physical activity.

Shakespeare once said, “The weak must fall”. It seems he may have been right. After the confinement we all suffered during the pandemic most of us are in need of getting in better shape again. This is especially true for older adults and is creating the potential for a new pandemic of falls and broken hips in older adults in the US over the next few years.

Here at the University of Denver, we seek to address this critical issue by proposing a community engagement program entitled “Sunrise Tai Chi and Fitness Walks”. Our program aims to increase physical activity, improve balance, prevent falls, and increase health literacy among older adults in the Denver metropolitan area. Monday’s beginning Monday, June 12th at 9:00 am, participants will have the opportunity to engage in Tai Chi and Walk with a Doc, all while enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings of the University of Denver’s Chamberlain Observatory in Observatory Park.

For more details about the program see below

As society begins to recover from the pandemic there is a need for increased access to physical activity programs for older adults, particularly for programs that improve balance and reduce falls risk. Baby Boomers are experiencing declining health with increasing rates of disability, chronic diseases, obesity, and stress. Baby Boomers are less healthy than the previous generation of people roughly 20 years they’re senior, with twice as many needing mobility aids., This program is designed to give older adults an opportunity to try some new activities and learn some skills in a safe supportive environment.

The lack of adequate exercise is one of the leading causes of declining health, with only 51% of Coloradans getting the recommended level of physical activity per week. In Denver, 17% of adults get no leisure-time physical activity at all, and the city has fallen from its previous ranking as one of the most physically active cities in the country to 9th place in the ACSM’s American Fitness Index.

In addition to the many benefits of physical activity across multiple domains of whole-person health, the risk of falls poses a particular threat to older adults, with one in three experiencing a fall each year, which can lead to serious injuries and is the primary cause of injury deaths. The prolonged lockdowns and restrictions imposed during the pandemic threaten to increase the risk of falls for older adults. This alarming trend underscores the urgent need to increase access to physical activity opportunities and provide informational outreach activities that can reduce the incidence of falls among the Baby Boomer population in Denver. Recent data reveals that over 4,500 Denver metro area residents aged 65 and older are hospitalized each year due to fall-related injuries. Tragically, falls are responsible for approximately 175 deaths among older adults in the Denver area annually, making it imperative to take action to prevent falls and promote healthy aging.

To address these issues locally in Denver we are offering a free Tai Chi and Fitness Walks in the Park this summer. The program is a unique partnership between the Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging, the Ritchie Center, the DU Enrichment Program, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI at DU), The DU Retirees Association, and award-winning community partners The Tai Chi Project at Living Younger Longer Institute and Walk with a Doc.

The overarching goals of this project are to improve physical activity levels, reduce the risk of falls, and improve health literacy amongst older adults in the Denver metropolitan area. The program will consist of weekly Tai Chi classes and fitness walks on Mondays at 9:00 A.M. at the DU Chamberlain Observatory in Observatory Park, beginning June 12th and continuing throughout the summer. All sessions will be led by degreed instructors and presenters with experience working with aging adult populations.

We recognize the importance of physical activity for older adults and are thrilled to partner with community organizations to bring this program to our local area. Please visit our website for more information about the Meditation in Motion program, or contact the program coordinator at We hope to see you at our upcoming Tai Chi and Fitness Walking sessions!

De La Cámara MÁ, Jiménez-Fuente A, Pardos AI. Falls in older adults: The new pandemic in the post COVID-19 era? Med Hypotheses. 2020 Dec;145:110321. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2020.110321. Epub 2020 Oct 1. PMID: 33032175; PMCID: PMC7527304.