It used to be simple: if you fell, you got back up. But as we age, our bones become more brittle, our joints a bit less flexible, and our stability and range of motion slightly less agile. And so for seniors, a fall becomes not only more likely, but especially dangerous.
According to Statistics Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury for seniors – the cause of 85% of all injury related hospitalizations, especially hip fractures. Recovery is lengthy and can lead to chronic pain and loss of mobility and independence.
“A fall can be devastating, and there’s no guarantee you’ll fully recover,” says Michele Reid, National Director of Recreation at Revera. So, how do you best prevent falls from happening? “It’s a combination of improving your balance and strength, and making your living space more accessible,” says Michele Reid, National Director of Recreation at Revera.
Here are Michele’s Top 4 tips for preventing falls:
- Remove Trip Hazards: Making your living space more accessible doesn’t require a radical change, says Reid. Throw rugs, uneven surfaces, poor lighting – all can lead to falls,” says Reid. “Over time, the muscles that help lift our feet begin to weaken, leading to a shuffle, and that’s when your toe can catch on a rug.”
- Practice Functional Exercises: Fall prevention is about improving your mobility, and the easiest way to do this is to link the exercise with real-life situations. “Practicing sit-and-stand exercises, where you sit down in a chair and then stand up again, sounds really basic,” says Reid. “But by doing this, you’re mimicking the movement of, say, sitting down on a toilet or getting into a car. And so it’s about maintaining your independence, not just preventing falls.”
- Tap Those Toes: We’ve already mentioned “the shuffle,” wherein we begin to shuffle our feet rather than lifting them up. The best way to prevent this, says Reid, is to perform toe-tapping exercises. “Simply tapping your toes helps strengthen the muscles in the front of your leg, which lift your feet, she says. “The stronger the muscle, the easier it is to lift your feet.”
- Use It Or Lose It: It goes without saying, but if you’re not moving about, then you’re more likely to fall. “Fall prevention is about increasing your core strength, mobility and stability, and so the more you walk about, the less likely it is you’re going to fall,” says Reid. “There’s an entry point for everyone; for some, it’s about taking the stairs, not the escalator; for others, it’s sit-to-stand and toe-tapping exercises.” That said, Reid cautions about being aware of your own body. “Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about what type of exercises are best for you. Then, get started.”