When we’re young, falls are treated as teaching opportunities. “Get back on your feet, brush yourself off and keep moving toward your goals,” we were told.
But as we age, falls take on much greater significance. According to physical therapist Kevin Lenoir, when someone of advanced age falls, they tend to suffer greater distress to their health as well as their pocketbooks.
“A fall can greatly impact a senior’s ability to live an active, healthful and independent life,” said Lenoir, staff physical therapist at Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy – Athletic Club of Bend in Bend. “In fact, where older adults are concerned, a fall can have a spiraling effect on their overall quality of life during years typically set aside for much-deserved rest, relaxation and fun.”
Unfortunately, though, falls are an epidemic among seniors in the U.S.
According to the National Council on Aging, an older adult is treated for a fall in a U.S. emergency room every 11 seconds, making it the most common cause for nonfatal, trauma-related hospital admissions among this group.
In addition, the average health care cost for each of these falls is approximately $35,000 per patient.
“Older bodies are simply more susceptible to serious injury when falls occur,” Lenoir said. “And, while there are some things seniors can do to keep their bonds strong and flexible enough to better absorb a fall, the best course of action is to just prevent falls from happening to begin with. This starts with improving balance.”
Lenoir points out that, like strength and cardiovascular conditioning, balance is something that can and should be improved through regular exercise.
Lenoir suggests seniors try these five exercises to help improve their balance:
“If you’re new to any of these exercises, help balance yourself initially by having a hand on a table, chair back or wall for safety’s sake,” Lenoir said. “Make these simple exercises part of your daily routine.”
And, if you’re a senior or soon-to-be senior who doesn’t currently exercise regularly, it’s smart to start any new fall-prevention effort by first getting a balance assessment from a physical therapist. Through a balance assessment, a physical therapist can determine your level of functional balance while pinpointing areas of concern that can be addressed through an individualized fall-prevention regimen.
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