A study of 1,850 New Zealanders found a 33% reduction in spending to treat fall injuries and a potential six-fold savings in "social costs" related to those injuries when the people involved lived in homes that were renovated so they could age in place.

The new research was built on evidence from a three-year study in New Zealand in which home remodeling was associated with a 26% drop in medically treated injuries from falls. This time, Dr. Michael Keall of Otago Medical School in Wellington, New Zealand, and his colleagues wanted to know if the average NZ$560 cost of renovations per house in 2012 ($448 at the average US dollar exchange rate in 2012) in that previous study could pay off in terms of direct and indirect costs associated with falls.

That study included one group of participants randomly selected for home renovations and another group that continued to live in homes without any safety modifications. Sample remodeling work included handrails for steps and stairs, repairs to steps, grab rails for bathrooms and toilets, adequate outdoor lighting, high-visibility slip-resistant edging for outside steps, fixing lifted edges of carpets or rugs, non-slip bath mats, and slip-resistant surfacing for outside areas such as decks.

National insurance data found about 273,000 falls requiring medical treatment in New Zealand, or 53% of the total, occurred when people were at home. So did half of falls resulting in hospital admissions and 39% of falls that resulted in death.

"Our finding was that the modifications were highly cost-beneficial for the general population," Keall said. "We expected the cost-benefit ratio to be still higher for older people, or those with a prior history of falling."

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