Besides reducing the risk of falls, how can we teach people to survive falls?
I think reducing the risk of falls and teaching people to survive the falls are very similar. It all starts with reducing the risks first as much as possible.
You do have to recognize and appreciate that no matter what falls are going to happen eventually. At that point then "surviving the fall" becomes all important. How a person survives is crucial. The best way is to be prepared through proper physical conditioning to accept the fall. This includes good general physical conditioning (strength and flexibility). If your body can accept the consequences of a fall including the impact itself of the fall, that is the most basic component of surviving the fall once it happens. Having sufficient muscle development and joint flexibility are crucial to avoid serious injury at that point.
What aikido can do is assist with the area of good body mechanics (ie., ukemi) which are required in taking a fall. The strength and flexibility issues can help strengthen the body when the fall happens, but knowing how to "accept" the fall process is critical. Some items have to be ingrained through practice such as how to allow the impact of a fall to be dissipated over as much surface of the body as possible. Many falls involve breaking bones such as the wrist because the person tries to "catch" themselves going down.
Finally, we must acknowledge that some seniors are much less likely to survive a fall because of their general physical condition. This can be because of development of medical conditions such as osteoporosis or other types of problems which make bones more likely to break and prone to injury. For this group they should consider items such as hip protectors which can be worn under their clothing for additional protection in the event of a fall. Others should make sure they use a properly fitted (sized) walking cane or other form of walking assistance (ie,roller).
The secret is to structure a program geared to each individual to assist them to survive the fall when it occurs at the same time allowing them to have the greatest amount of mobility and personal independence in the process.