Loss of mobility, stiff joints, tight muscles, health conditions, and a loss of balance all make the danger of falling a real possibility as people age into their senior years. Beyond the “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” tropes, falling poses severe health risks, such as broken bones, concussions, and contusions and can even result in death. Statistics show that falls are also incredibly common, with more than one third of seniors over the age of 65 reporting severe falls each year. While it may be difficult to prevent falls entirely, there are certainly ways seniors can reduce the risks of falling.
There are external ways to reduce the risks of falling, such as anchoring furniture and putting down nonslip rugs. Support banisters and keeping areas clear of clutter are also ways to reduce a senior’s chances of falling. Even wearing appropriate attire, such as slippers with good grip on the soles, will help — as will avoiding attire that could cause a fall, such as long skirts that trail on the floor.
Three Ways to Prevent Falls through Aging with Movement
Aside from external ways to reduce the risk of falling, seniors can also gain physical skills that will help them maintain or regain balance and physical mobility. Aging with movement is a concept that sedentary lifestyles put people at risk for injury and illness and that employing regular physical movement can thus prevent these issues. Three of the main ways seniors can prevent falls by aging with movement are by gaining flexibility, building strength, and maintaining balance.
Gaining flexibility allows your body to move in a way that is less restrictive and more adaptive to sudden movements. Flexibility helps prevent falls by increasing the mobility of the hip joints, knee joints, and spine. It also reduces the chances of injury resulting from a fall because muscles and tendons will be less likely to tear. Body posture and physical response time are benefits of gaining flexibility, both of which aid in reducing the risks of falling.
There are several ways seniors can maintain or gain flexibility, and practicing regularly is key. Yoga and Tai Chi classes for seniors are examples of ways to gain flexibility in a class setting. These classes are led by trained instructors who understand the physical limitations of seniors and are held in spaces with mobility access in mind. If classes seem too daunting, range of motion exercises are another way to gain flexibility and can be done at home both alone and with the support of a home caregiver. Daily stretching exercises can also be employed. Having the assistance of a home caregiver when stretching at home will help reduce the chances of seniors incurring injuries from overextending themselves. In addition to increasing flexibility, stretching also boosts circulation and improves cognitive function.
Building muscle strength will allow the body to naturally keep bones and joints in alignment. This in turn helps with balance and reflexes. Having a strong core in particular helps reduce the chances of a fall if a senior is caught off balance, as the muscles will automatically work to steady the body. Increasing strength can also improve the immune system, supports organs, and stabilizes joints.
Strength training for seniors is best done with a personal trainer or in classes specifically designed for seniors. Strength training should always begin with a warmup, followed by gentle stretching, before starting any muscle building exercises. Pilates, body exercises such as sit-ups and core training, and swimming are examples of strength training for seniors. Aquatic exercises are particularly conducive for seniors since being in water eliminates pressure on the joints.
The ability to balance even when just standing still is something that many seniors struggle with. This loss of balance is one of the main causes of falls for seniors. Balance training exercises can help seniors reduce anxiety and overcome fear of falling. In addition to modalities like yoga and Tai Chi, there are classes designed specifically to help seniors regain and maintain balance.
For instance, A Matter of Balance is an award-winning program designed by the Healthy Aging Association to manage falls and increase activity levels, since many older adults restrict their activity due to their concerns about falling. The free program is designed to benefit community dwelling older adults who are concerned about falls, have sustained a fall in the past and/or restricted activities because of concerns about falling and for those who are interested in increasing their activity level, and are aged 60 or older, ambulatory, and able to problem solve. Participants learn about different ways to view falls and control their fear of falling, plus set realistic goals for increasing physical activity, and how to change their environment to reduce fall risk factors.
Home Care Services Help Prevent Falls
Enlisting the help of a home caregiver can help seniors reduce falls through a number of ways. Home caregivers provide housekeeping services, which keep pathways free of clutter and clear of tripping hazards. Home caregivers also act as advocates, and can help detect when seniors in their care are having health issues. They can also help facilitate classes and exercises that help with flexibility, strength, and balance.
If you or a loved one are in need of home care services in Northern California please get in touch with Alegre Home Care. We have been serving seniors and people with disabilities for over 20 years and we specialize in dementia care as well as standard home care services.