Falls assume a new magnitude as one ages. The risk of injury, not to mention the long-term problems afterward, can be daunting for those who don’t heal as well or as rapidly as they used to. This becomes even more disturbing when you start to look at how many senior injuries come from taking a spill.
The Des Moines Register gives us one fairly typical example:
At Iowa Methodist Medical Center, falls are the main reason patients seek trauma care, said Karen Jones, trauma and injury prevention coordinator for Iowa Health — Des Moines. In 2010, 4,001 patients visited Methodist’s emergency room due to a fall. Of those, 2,225 were older than age 65.
More than half of them were over 65. In Ohio, the number of fatal falls suffered by seniors increased a whopping 125%. I’d say that speaks loud and clear.
So, what can you do to make falls less likely? One of the obvious answers from younger years is still quite valid today — exercise.
Rita Price, a writer for The Columbus Dispatch, recently talked with a personal trainer who has a lot of experience working with seniors. Gabe Stinson, a specialist with SportsCare, works with a number of clients over the age of 70.
‘I always tell them the minute they start losing mobility, it’s a slippery slope. You need to maintain a level of strength to do everyday activities,’ he said.
Stinson works with seniors on strength because strength keeps them mobile and helps them maintain their balance. Cardio also helps seniors build endurance so they don’t tire as easily.
Walking and basic strength-training moves (even simple things like getting up and down and out of a chair without using your arms) can help seniors, Stinson said.
Of course, one should always seek professional advice before embarking on any sort of fitness program, particularly when age complicates things. In the meantime, there is a vast array of tools one can use to make the senior home safer. From the high-tech sophistication of toilet lifts and stair lifts to simply putting lights in darker places like the foot of the stairs, there are ways to improve the safety of a senior’s environment. If they’re feeling flashy, there are even lighted canes for just this purpose.
In addition to getting more physical exercise and properly equipping one’s home, there are some other basic thing that should be done, including getting fresh eye exams on a regular basis and clearing clutter and potential tripping hazards from the floor and general area (things like loose rugs or mail stacked on the steps, for instance). Since many falls are caused by haste, adopting a slower pace is also a good idea.