While clowns, mimes, and comedians have used the old “slipping on a banana peel” stunt to encourage laughter, there’s nothing funny about senior falls. As many as 25% of older adults fall each year, and 20% of those sustain some form of serious injury. This means millions of seniors are visiting the E/R each year as the result of a fall.
Taking steps now to prevent future falls for seniors is crucial. One key factor is developing and maintaining balance while aging. Kevin Maisch, Certified Balance Trainer, adds that improving balance enables older adults to have a better quality of life, both physically and mentally. It helps older adults stay active and engaged in what they love most, whether that’s playing golf, playing with the grandkids, or just having the freedom to go for walks without fear of falling.
Simple Steps Seniors Can Take to Improve Balance
The pandemic had a big impact on our activity level, with many older adults experiencing hesitancy to even go outside of the home. It contributed to a more sedentary lifestyle – the archnemesis of maintaining balance.
There are certain aspects of improving balance that are within our control:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Enhancing muscle mass and flexibility
Seniors can incorporate these simple but powerful balance exercises into their daily routine to help with both of these factors. Be sure to get approval from the doctor, however, before starting or changing any exercise routine.
Chair Leg Lifts
Hold onto the back of a stable chair or a kitchen counter. Lift one leg at a time: forwards, backwards, and out to the side. Switch legs and repeat five to ten times. As comfort level
increases, the same exercise can be performed without holding onto the chair or counter, with someone available to provide support if needed. While it doesn’t seem as though something so simple would make much of an impact, you’d be surprised at how much it can improve balance, strength, and flexibility over time.
Place a steadying hand on a kitchen counter or table and place one foot in front of the other, touching heel to toe. Continue moving each foot in front of the other in this manner the length of the counter/table, and then turn and walk the same way the other direction, repeating five or ten times. It can actually be quite challenging to maintain your balance and keep those feet in line.
Sit and Stand
This exercise is just as it sounds: from a seated position in a chair, simply stand up, pause a moment, and then sit back down again. Repeat five to ten times. This simple exercise helps build muscle mass and improve leg strength and flexibility.
Signs That a Senior May Be at Risk for Falling
Be mindful that seniors are at risk for falling, and be observant and on the lookout for these early warning signs:
- A shuffling gait
- More frequent occurrences of a senior stubbing toes or stumbling
- A feeling of fogginess or dizziness when putting the head down and then lifting it up
If a senior is experiencing any of these red flags, schedule a checkup with the doctor as well as an eye exam. Medication side effects or declining eyesight could be the culprit, and should be addressed.
Additional Fall Prevention Measures
An area-by-area assessment of the home environment is crucial. Check for:
- Clutter, including extension cords, low furniture, and anything else that is blocking walking pathways
- Poor lighting – including in hallways leading from the bedroom to the bathroom and kitchen, which may need to be accessed at night
- Missing handrails on stairways
- Missing grab bars in the bathroom
- Throw rugs
If you’d like someone from our senior care team to help assess a senior’s home for fall risks, just give us a call at (941) 929-1966. As the leaders in home care in Sarasota County, Right at Home is here to help seniors with maintaining balance while aging in a variety of ways: providing transportation to balance and exercise classes, offering motivation and encouragement to make balance improvement part of a senior’s daily routine, and more. Contact us today to get started!