It’s a natural part of human evolution that as we grow older, so do our bodies. Admittedly, we try pretty valiantly to age as gracefully: we eat healthy, exercise regularly, and always try to get our beauty sleep. However, it’s when we reach our golden years that things begin to change more rapidly, and one of the biggest challenges is our ability to maintain balance.
When we reach our senior years, we lose more muscle mass, flexibility and reflexes as the years go by, so unlike our 20-something selves, if we lose our balance, our ability to bounce back (or get up) isn’t as great. In fact, we run the risk of falling and injuring ourselves. In Canada, statistics prove that every year, one in three Canadian seniors 65-years-old or older will fall at least once. Moreover, 87 percent of all fractures in the elderly are due to such falls.
Although this can feel a bit alarming, the good news is there are proven methods you can use in your daily life that will help you avoid the risk of falling and those subsequent injuries. There is light at the end of the tunnel, so read on to discover the daily tips to make falling a thing of the past.
Be proactive and get a medical assessment
Even if your loved one thinks you may have just tripped or stumbled accidentally, a thorough evaluation could possibly uncover issues that made those trips or stumbles more likely. A fall could be an indicator of a medical problem that requires treatment (i.e.: illnesses such as dehydration or a urinary tract infection) or a side effect of certain medications you may be taking. If you want to help avoid future falls, make sure your doctors have checked all the things that could have contributed to a fall in the first place.
Work on your gait and balance
Consider a physical therapy referral to have your gait and balance assessed. A therapist can often recommend suitable strengthening exercises, and could also help fit an assistive device (i.e.: a walker) if necessary. If you work on improving your overall body’s strength and flexibility, you will be better equipped physically to avoid a potential fall.
Although this may seem rather rudimentary, many falls in the senior community occur because of vision problems. You can reduce the risk by ensuring you have adequate lighting that’s working properly. Even if you have near 20/20 vision, poor lighting can put you at risk for a fall by obscuring your way or making areas more difficult to navigate.
Find the right footwear
Generally-speaking, seniors at a high risk for falls should avoid any footwear that is too loose, or has slippery soles. High heels, flip flops and walking in stocking feet can also contribute to a fall, so instead opt for shoes that are not only comfortable, but that also provide a sense of stability and security when you walk in them.
Build lower body strength
If your core, back, hips or legs are weak (or in pain) it will all have an effect on your balance. Lower body weakness can include an impaired gait, the inability to walk for extended periods of time, or pain in the lower body when performing normal activities.
Before starting your fitness program, be sure to first consult a doctor that specializes in geriatrics. Having a geriatrician’s approval is key as they will know your medical history and also what you should concentrate your efforts on. Oftentimes they can also recommend that you follow up with a personal trainer to get your program started. Be sure to let your trainer know your expectations and your limits, so that he or she can develop the right program for you.
Have you taken a fall before? If so, what are the tips you employed to ensure it won’t happen again? Please share!