Dave Schwaiger, RN

When we think of falls, we naturally think of fractures, and when we think of fractures we think of loss of our ability to be fully functional. Among older adults, according to the National Council on Aging, falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence and injury related deaths. More than one in three people age 65 or older will have a fall this year, resulting in more than one million fall injuries treated in emergency departments yearly including 650,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 deaths. With statistics like that the fear of falling can be paralyzing, resulting in seniors decreasing their activities of daily living, not taking that daily walk, not being as social as they were when younger, even avoiding leaving the house. This fear is understandable but the fear itself can be debilitating. Instead of letting this fear of falling direct our lives, let us focus on what we can do to prevent falls and promote life. We need to prevent falls and promote independence but not with a fear based approach.

How do we do this? We can start by exercising our independence. Martina Navratilova states that our fitness should be driven by the functionality that we want in our bodies and the independence we want in our lives. In her video she states that our exercise needs to improve balance, enhance posture, boost stamina and strengthen our core. Preventing falls comes down to bones, balance and behaviors.

So how do we improve our bone health? We need to eat a balanced diet that ensures we get enough Calcium and Vitamin D which are crucial for building and maintaining strong bones. We need to do weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises, mix up your routines, dance, hike, or take a brisk walk. We need to develop and keep healthy lifestyle habits, avoid smoking, heavy consumption of alcohol and salty foods. We need to talk to our primary care provider to develop a plan to protect and manage your bone health as you age.     Balance?, excellent balance as well as optimizing your vision dramatically reduces your fall risk. Hearing and vision both increase our awareness of our surroundings and can reduce our risk, have your vision and hearing checked regularly. For Balance we all need to increase our balance training exercises, Tai Chi or Yoga are excellent exercises that help balance and flexibility.

We have covered bone health and balance but possibly the hardest part is to change our behaviors. We need to embrace these positive changes in our daily routine, it is never too late to form healthy habits to protect ourselves from falls and thereby protecting our bones. Instead of using a negative motivator that focuses on the injury such as “I don’t want to have a fall and end up in a nursing home” set a positive goal such as “I want to be able to walk 2 miles a day” or “I want to go hiking in the mountains” or “I want to be able to walk the new puppy with my grand-daughter”.

The Senior Center has many programs for seniors including many that will improve our overall functioning and stability, come over to our place and see how we can help you maintain your independence.

The 9th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) was observed on September 22, 2016—the first day of fall. The event raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. The theme of this year’s event is Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016.

Guest columnist Dave Schwaiger is the registered nurse at the Sheridan Senior Center.

“Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community.  It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.”