A quick Google search for “falls in the elderly” yields about 58 million hits, with roughly 1.5 million results on Google scholar, where the more scientific articles reside. It’s a big deal.
• 1 out of 4 Americans aged 65+ fall every year, one person every second
• Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury in older adults
• Hip fractures predict loss of independence and hasten death
• Falling leads to “fear of falling” and depression – starting downward spiral
What helps prevent falls as we age?
• Correcting vision and hearing problems
• Routine exercises for balance and strength – including Tai Chi
• Removing hazards in the home, wearing sensible shoes
• Adding grab bars to shower/tub and around toilet
• Paying attention to bone health and vitamin D levels
• Taking as few medications as possible – Q4Action!
• Standing up slowly (take a full minute)
• Limiting alcohol
• If you need a cane or walker, use it!
A weekend of planning and strategizing can accomplish most of these. The hardest one (of course!) is getting into an exercise routine. It will be worth your while – and importantly, allow you to live a higher quality of life (e.g. unloading your own groceries, playing with the grandchildren) and retain your best function for as long as possible.
I have seen patients in their nineties gain strength and balance doing as few as two exercise sessions per week, allowing them to thrive at home. I have many more patients that do not exercise – and have lost considerable independence after even a minor fall and injury, requiring a move to a nursing home.
SIT to RISE: My favorite anywhere, every day exercise (midlife and beyond):
From a seated position (and with furniture or a friend for balance if needed), cross your arms over your chest and stand up using only your legs. Return to seated position without using arms. Repeat 10 times or as often as possible!
If you find you can’t do one of these easily – you are at risk for falling.
More resources on falls prevention:
If you would like to be notified when there is a new blog post click here to join my email list