We all face that risk, if we haven't fallen already. If it isn't us, it is a loved one who has fallen. A mother. A father. An aunt or uncle.
Quoting from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Website:
"What outcomes are linked to falls? (Citations for these statistics are available on the website)
- Twenty to thirty percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently, and increase the risk of early death.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- About one-half of fatal falls among older adults are due to TBI.
- Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls....
- Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increases their actual risk of falling."
What is the number one thing we can do, even in midlife, to help prevent falls when we are older?
EXERCISE. (There's more to it than that, but exercise is a great start.)
But not just any exercise. For years, I had been doing water aerobics and walking. Now, I find it is not enough. I will not share "how to's" for the actual exercises, as they must be taught by trained people (we were taught by physical therapists) and practiced, and seniors must be sure they can do these safely. We do these exercises at the beginning of each class before we learn other things. I will say that four exercises (balance) are done daily, and four exercises (strength) are done three times a week.
Which is why, every day, I now walk a tightrope.
Not a real tightrope-I am not in training to be the next Nik Wallenda. You will not see me on tightropes across canyons, or skyscrapers. Nor will you see me trying to break tightrope records at the Wisconsin State Fair.
No, the tightrope walk I do each day is imaginary. Well, the tightrope is. The walking is real. Touching a counter lightly, I balance, one foot in front of the other. Then, facing forward, I walk. Eventually, I won't wobble and I will be able to walk backwards, too. Eventually, I may be able to stop touching the counter. What you won't see is a video of me doing this. I will say the obvious: my balance needs a lot of improvement.
(Update 2017 - I have improved in my "on firm ground" tightrope walking and don't need to be near a wall or touching a counter anymore. But I'm still not going to post any video).
So, what about you, my reader?
I was interested in this video I found on the PBS (Public Broadcasting) website on "How to Walk a Tightrope". This sounds like a fun family activity. It's never too early to start your children on a path of good balance. Or you, if you are younger than I am. (I'm in my 60's).
Please continue to join me on Wednesdays to learn more about what I learned in 2015 about fall prevention. None of what I will share is proprietary information - much of it is already online. But learning in a classroom setting is better than reading a blog, and I encourage you, if you have fall prevention classes in your area, to encourage your loved senior (or yourself, if you have fallen or are at risk of falling) to seek out an evidence based class. And, after the class is over, keep exercising and learning.