One in three people over the age of sixty-five are victims of a fall in the course of one year. A fall may not seem like a major deal to most of us, but to senior citizens, they can be devastating ordeals that cause permanent disability and in many cases cut lives short.
A fractured hip manifests more than through fissuring of bone. The heart becomes deconditioned, digestion is disrupted, and psychological distress ensues, all from the lack of movement caused by the bone break. A cascade effect can easily occur involving organ systems from which many of the elderly do not recover.
How can we lessen the incidences of falling in the senior population?
There are a myriad of published studies that point to the benefit of strength and balance training. Just about anyone who takes the time to properly train becomes stronger and has a lesser chance of sustaining injury from a fall. I think that everyone over the age of sixty-five should either have a gym membership or participate in daily routines that work to improve strength and standing balance.
But we can do more than this.
One of the best things that we can do as sons and daughters of aging parents is to minimize risky set-ups that can cause falls. One of the main culprits of falls is stairs. I preach the following adage to all of my patients (and to my parents)…
“Anyone who is approaching seventy years of age who has the means to do so should be living in a one-floor home.”
This idea does not come without backlash. Older people are set in their ways. Several of my patients with whom I have discussed this idea have commented that moving out of a long time multi-storied house can be viewed as a form of surrender to old age. It is often true that many of the very old will rapidly decline psychologically when suddenly pulled out of familiar settings.
This is why we should all act preemptively. Having a conversation with the soon-to-be old in regards to making changes can in fact preserve meaningful and productive lives. There are of course also viable alternatives to moving. Installing railings, mechanized chairs for staircases, and adequate supervision with stair climbing can also help.
Perhaps if these notions are presented to our loved ones (and to ourselves) enough times over years, the frightening aspect of implementing necessary changes can be… Less frightening?
PhysioDC Podcast: Aging and Exercise: Dealing Responsibly
Dana Logan (physical therapist) and Dan Baumstark (physical therapist) discuss age related changes and exercise modification.
Visit our PhysioDC podcast page.