Falls represent the leading cause of injury and accidental death among the elderly population. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that in 2008 alone, almost 20 thousand seniors died because of fall-related injuries while approximately 1.5 million were treated in emergency rooms for hip fractures and other injuries.
Why do seniors fall more frequently than younger people?
Falling is a common problem for people 65 years old and older because of several factors: slower reflexes, reduced visual sensitivity, weaker bones, poor posture, harmful drug effects, cognitive changes, and most of all, decreased balance. Although many factors may be involved, a person’s balance diminishes over time, primarily because of lack of activity.
What to do:
To promote good balance, experts encourage seniors to perform balance-enhancing activities and exercises. Have these things ready before you begin: an armless chair or railing, soft socks, a clock and non-slippery shoes or slippers. Look at these five quick, yet gentle, at-home activities that seniors can do to reduce the chance of falling:
- Flamingo Stand. This is one of the simplest standing balance exercises. Like the flamingo, ask the senior to stand on one leg, with arms holding the back of the chair or railing for support. Let them raise their foot up front for ten seconds, then put it down. Make them perform the same procedure to the other leg. After a few rounds, let them try to balance with eyes closed, or try to balance without holding on.
- Eye Tracking. This exercise will help visual and balancing systems. It can sometimes cause dizziness, so moving gradually is the key. Let the senior hold their thumb out in front of their face, with elbows bent. Ask them to move their thumb to the left, then to the right, as far as comfortable. While doing this, instruct them to follow their thumb, using their eyes only. For the next round, they are allowed to move their head.
- Walking the Tightrope. This exercise requires elders to hold their arms out sideways, parallel to the floor, just like a tightrope walker in a circus. Instruct them to walk in a straight line, counting two seconds before taking another step. It is important to maintain good posture as much as possible. While walking, make them look at a single spot in front to maintain balance.
- Knee Marching. This simple exercise is designed to improve hip, knee and ankle strength. It also improves dynamic balance or balance while moving. Holding on to the back of the chair with one hand, seniors must raise their left knee up as high as comfortable, then lower it. The same is done with the other leg.
- Heel-toe Walk. As the name suggests, seniors are required to walk with one foot in front of the other. They are to continue stepping forward by touching the heel of their front foot to the toes of their back foot. This is a complicated exercise, especially for elders. They might not be able to perform it perfectly at first but constant practice makes perfect.
Exercise Safety Guidelines
- Older adults must not engage in overly challenging exercises unless approved by the doctor. So before committing to a routine of physical activity, it is best to consult the doctor to ensure safety.
- Assist your elderly loved one during his or her regular exercises. If you are not around, make sure to put up medicalalertsystems for emergency cases.
- Start the exercises slowly, gradually increasing in speed and intensity. Going “all out” after long periods of inactivity may lead to hypotension and vertigo.
About the Author: Melissa Page is a passionate writer based in San Diego, California. She blogs about health, lifestyle and travel for successful companies such as MedicalGuardian and Fred Loya Insurance. When she is not writing, she bowls with her friends.