Today is National Falls Awareness Day. When you read that, what comes to mind for you?
One that immediately jumps out is that classic commercial, interrupting your daytime TV or late night shows. It’s an older woman, with perfect hair and makeup in a pastel outfit. But wait! Why is she on the ground? As you watch, she cries out, saying those lines so many people know by heart, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”
A handsome young man in an official-looking uniform answers, comforting her that “Help is on the way.”
This commercial makes many people laugh. It follows an outdated infomercial structure, and its scripted lines have been turned into memes across the internet.
But this is not the original intent. This commercial should make people afraid. What if your elderly mom falls? What if your dad has a heart attack? What happens if those you love are in medical danger and no one knows?
The company hopes that this fear will drive you to buy a Life Alert. This is a great option for those who can afford it, or whose family can afford it. But what happens when you are elderly and cannot afford a Life Alert, because you can’t even afford a home?
Homelessness is a reality for many elderly Americans. Many of our clients at Thrive DC face unique challenges because of their age. A fall can be serious for any elderly person, but those dangers increase when you don’t have access to affordable healthcare and a safe, secure living space to heal in.
In addition to falls, older homeless folks experience many challenges. A report by the organizations Justice for Aging and the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that older adults without housing struggle to receive their benefits, access equipment like glasses or walkers, and have a high risk of being the victim of a crime.
This group also struggles with mobility, which makes traveling to different organizations to get food and other services much more difficult. Homelessness is very physically and mentally taxing, and the additional stress can cause premature aging
So, what can we do? The report shows that policy changes must be made, including making healthcare accessible, increasing affordable housing, and allowing those without homes to receive their benefits.
Those are big problems that no one person can achieve right now. But there is more you can do to help!
By supporting Thrive DC, you support us in responding to our older homeless adults, so that our services can send the message that “Help is on the way.”