As an adult, falling is terrifying! Just a few month ago I tripped over my dog and fell, hands straight out, hurt my wrist and scrapped both knees. It bloody hurt!! I am also fortunate that I did not break a bone.

Falling is extremely dangerous for all adults, especially as we age. New research indicates that older people who live alone are at higher risk of falling and being hospitalized after a fall. Risks of falling include broken bones, head injuries, strained muscles, cuts and bruises as well as all over body pain. Between the years 2000-2016, the mortality rate of falls for those over the age of 75 doubled. Clearly, we do not want to fall and hurt ourselves or enable our loved ones to fall down either!

There is hope. There are actual things we can all do to help prevent falls.

• When laying down, we can slowly sit up, take a breath, then stand up carefully. When we stand up too quickly the sudden change in blood pressure can make us lightheaded, and more apt to fall.
• Check for trip hazards at home such as rugs, cords, cluttered pathways, or uneven flooring. Every evening I pick up my dogs’ many toys, so we don’t trip and fall in the middle of the night.
• Add permanent handrails and grab bars to potential disaster areas like the one or two steps to get into the garage or back yard, shower, bathroom, anywhere you may need them. The suction cup handle grab bars that you adhere to inside your shower can be an inexpensive addition.

For a more bodily, physical approach, read the new book called Falling Is Not An Option: A Way to Lifelong Balance by George Locker. The author is a lifelong student of martial arts and tai chi. His focus is postural retraining.

How do we learn to have better balance? Think of people who ski, surf, and ride bicycles; we gain better balance by having to try and balance! We must engage our postural muscles like walking on uneven surfaces and inclines. Have you ever walked on cobblestones or hiked on a rocky trail? What about walking barefoot in deep squishy wet sand or any other uneven surface? It takes practice and we do get better.

Here are two exercises you can try at home:

  1. Stand on one leg and bend the knee and ankle you are standing on, to engage your postural muscles. Use the wall to keep from falling over when you practice and work up to 15 minutes per leg.
  2. Stand up straight and tall, then bend your knees and ankles as if you are going to sit on a high stool. Keep your spine straight and pelvis relaxed. Again, use the wall for help and build up to 15 minutes.
    The author states we want to form “a tremendous connection to the ground so that when you get pushed, instead of lifting up your shoulders and falling forward, your knees and ankles bend, and the body naturally pushes into the ground”.

Bottom line, we don’t want to hit bottom and fall on the ground. Ask a trusted friend or associate to look over your house for trip hazards. You can ask your primary care provider for a fall assessment, and you can also practice improving your balance at home.

Hilary Greenebaum
(503) 443-5923
Howard Insurance Agency for Seniors