Common Injuries as We Age

Still Going Strong focuses on preventing injuries among older adults, because it is a large and growing public health problem facing our nation. Over 10,000 people in the United States turn 65 every day.1 The number of injuries could increase as the population of older adults grows. Healthcare costs associated with these injuries may also increase.

Unintentional injuries have traditionally been the 7th leading cause of death among adults ages 65 and over. During the COVID-19 pandemic, unintentional injuries moved to the 8th leading cause of death among older adults. Falls and motor vehicle crashes are the leading mechanisms of unintentional injury deaths and result in the majority of TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths among older adults.2,3

Social Connectedness

Social connectedness is the degree to which people feel they belong and are supported and valued in their relationships with others. This is particularly beneficial for older adults, as social connectedness has several potential health benefits, including4

  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved cognitive function

In contrast, social isolation and loneliness among older adults can increase their risk of developing negative health outcomes. 4


Each year, 37 million falls occur among older adults age 65 and older.5 While not all falls result in an injury, about 37% of those who fall reported an injury that required medical treatment or restricted their activity for at least one day, resulting in an estimated nine million fall injuries.5 Nearly one million older adults are hospitalized because of a fall injury every year,6 most often due to a head injury or hip fracture. Hip fractures due to a fall accounted for 88% of emergency department visits and hospitalizations and 83% of deaths related to hip fractures were also caused by falls.7 Falls are also the most common cause of TBI-related deaths and hospital admissions.3


Motor Vehicle Crashes

There were over 50 million licensed older drivers, ages 65 and older, in the U.S. in 2022.8 That is 1 out of every 5 drivers. Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent, but the risk of being injured or killed in a traffic crash increases as we age.

Our vision and ability to reason and remember declines as we age, and physical changes might affect our driving. Certain medical problems increase the risk of car crashes. These include heart disease, dementia, sleep disorders, and limited hearing and vision. Medicines used for sleep, mood, pain, and allergies might affect driving safety. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Over 9,100 older adults died in traffic crashes in 20222 and more than 200,000 were treated in emergency departments for crash injuries in 2021.2,6 This means that each day, 25 older adults are killed and almost 550 are injured in crashes.6

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is an injury that affects how the brain works. It may be caused by a:

  • Bump, blow, or jolt to the head
  • Penetrating head injury (such as when an object enters the skull and harms the brain)

Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from mild, moderate, to severe. Most TBIs that occur in older adults are mild and are commonly called concussions.

TBI death rates have also increased about 22% in the last 10 years.

In 2021, there were nearly 70,000 TBI-related deaths in the United States.2

Older adults who get a TBI may face health problems that last a few days or the rest of their lives, depending on the severity of the injury.

TBI Effects

Effects of TBI can include short- or long-term problems with:

  • Thinking and memory
  • Movement
  • Sleep
  • Sensations such as vision or hearing
  • Emotional functioning such as personality changes or depression

TBI is a special health concern for older adults. They have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and death.3 Older adults can also take longer to recover from a TBI.3

Falls and motor vehicle crashes are two leading causes of TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths in older adults.9

  1. Colby S, Ortman J. Projections of the size and composition of the U.S. population: 2014 to 2060. Current Population Reports, P25–1143, U.S. Census Bureau. 2014.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics: Mortality Data on CDC Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER). Accessed 2024.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Surveillance Report of Traumatic Brain Injury-related Deaths by Age Group, Sex, and Mechanism of Injury—United States, 2018 and 2019. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  4. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. National Academies Press (U.S.); 2020. DOI: 10.17226/25663.
  5. Kakara R, Bergen G, Burns E, Stevens M. Nonfatal and Fatal Falls Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years—United States, 2020–2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2023;72:938–943. DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7235a1.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Atlanta, GA: CDC; 2019. Accessed 2024.
  7. Moreland B, Legha J, Burns E. Hip Fracture-related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations and Deaths by Mechanism of Injury among Adults Aged 65 and Older, United States 2019. Journal of Aging and Health, 35(5–6), 345–355. DOI: 10.1177/0898643221132450.
  8. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. Highway Statistics 2022 – Policy | Federal Highway Administration. Accessed 2023.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Report to Congress on Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Epidemiology and Rehabilitation [PDF – 72 pages]. Atlanta, GA: CDC; 2015.