The Risk Factors for Falling
The first step is recognizing your risk for a fall. Of course, age plays a part, and your risk of falling increases as you age: 30 percent of people 65 and older fall each year, while 50 percent of people 80 and older do.
But age is only one piece of the puzzle. We use age to measure fall risk because it is an easy stand-in for a lot of other risk factors. You are more likely to fall if you have:
- A history of falling
- Trouble walking or mobility problems
- Poor balance and muscle weakness
- Poor eyesight
- A cognitive impairment
- Hazards in the home
- Multiple medications
- Incontinence issues
Home Improvements: Removing Tripping Hazards
Staying at home will not keep you safe on its own. Home and environmental risk factors are involved in about half of falls. That’s not surprising when you consider how much time all of us spend at home.
There are many changes you can make if you want to stay in your home as long as possible. To prevent falls specifically, you’ll want to fix the main tripping hazards in your home. You should:
- Secure loose rugs (or remove them altogether)
- Move cords against walls and secure them there
- Add no-slip strips to the stairs and bathroom
- Use rubber, nonslip bathmats (never a towel or rug)
- Make sure you can easily reach items you use often (and avoid using step stools)
- Clean spills immediately
- Throw away empty boxes, old newspapers, or other trash
- Add nightlights to dark rooms or hallways
Exercise: Improving Strength and Balance
Everyone can benefit from exercise, and that is especially true for seniors. Staying active can improve your balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility. That translates to fewer falls.
For people with a low-risk of falling (in other words, with fewer of those risk factors), daily moderate exercise can help. That could include:
- 30 minutes a day of moderately intense walking
- Group exercise classes
- Sports like tennis or golf
- Bike riding
- Dance classes
People at a higher risk of falling will want a more structured exercise program that focuses on their individual weaknesses or problems. These programs will usually involve building functional strength and cover movements you use daily, like moving from sitting to standing, transferring your weight, or reaching. A physical or occupational therapist can help you create a program.
Regardless of what you choose, the key is to get moving and stay active. Any program that includes balance, strength training, and low-impact cardio will help.
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