Falls in retirement homes are not only traumatic for the person who has fractured her hip or back. As an ambulance arrives to take that person to the hospital, the rest of the residents and staff feel stressed too, and sometimes afraid.
Enter resilient floors. Modern athletic facilities - from gymnastics venues to basketball arenas - use floors that "give".
One photo shows a thick plastic mat, which would not be ideal for a walker or wheelchair, but a floor designer (I'm nowhere close) could be asked to create something that combines the mat-like cushion and, as shown in the other photo, a wooden floor with a complex system of integrated layers, including "floating floors, vapor barriers, pre-assembled cushion panels, and upper subfloor panels," - as one website describes one type of athletic floor -- all in the service of"high shock absorption."
As a practical matter, could special floors, carefully designed to cushion shock, be installed in senior residences? Of course they could. It would be expensive - but aren't broken hips expensive too? And aren't seniors as valuable as athletes?
Fall prevention is key. But falls are not exactly the problem - it's the potential damage from the fall that is. As we all know, falls can lead to severe injuries -- hip or spine fractures -- and even death. So we need to think about post-fall solutions, too, if we're going to solve the problem of severe, sometimes life-threatening injuries.
Here are some more pictures of gym floors. Note how many different ways floors can be constructed to absorb impact.
As a former college basketball player who played on the first shock-absorbent floor installed at Stanford University's Maples Arena, I can personally attest to the fact that these floors literally bend when someone lands on them.