While balance and agility matter at any age, they can become crucial as we age. Why? Falls in adults can set up a host of problems, as these articles explain:
Joint stiffness can also limit our movements and contribute to the risk of falling, but ironically, often the best thing for uncooperative or sore joints is to keep moving - carefully!
Also see the section on Caring for Someone with a Mobility Problem in this series for more information on home assessments, tools, and helping people with mobility issues safely.
Several factors can make us at risk for a fall, as these sources explain. Tripping hazards - at home, in our neighborhoods, at work - can set anyone up for a fall. But so can a limited range of motion or muscle weakness from old injuries or illness. Also commonly-used medications can interfere with balance or make us feel dizzy. Here are some questions to assess risk for falling, and easy first steps to take:
The resources listed on our webpage for Caring at Home, including the assessments and checklists, may also be helpful.
Despite all our best efforts to fall-proof our homes and ourselves - still, falls happen. Now what? (Hint: it's a good idea to practice getting back up again, as in the video below).
When balance gets shaky, muscles have weakened, or range of motion narrows, exercise can be the first line of improvement. There are literally thousands of sources for senior exercise and fitness advice; the following are good places to start.
To improve balance:
Recommended exercises for balance, flexibility, and strength:
If you are looking for classes to improve balance and mobility, this locator map may be useful:
Tai ch'i and Qi Gong are often recommended for multiple benefits, from improving balance to mental agility and better mood, as described in article from the Harvard Gazette linked below. These other sources may be useful, too.
Gentle yoga offers benefits too (especially for arthritis) when practiced carefully as explained in these resources:
Water exercises, swimming and pool aerobics can be particularly good for people with balance, mobility, or strength issues.
Even people with mobility problems can benefit from exercises like these:
Mobility tools like canes, crutches, and braces are as old as humankind. Some tips for using these effectively:
Overviews of these types of mobility tools:
There's also a large market for technological tools and apps to monitor falls or send medical alerts - see the sections on technology tools in the Caregiving Basics and Caring at Home guides for links.
KQED's article "Preventing seniors from falling is going to be a huge market" from November 2017 gives an overview of new technologies available.
Be sure to discuss information gathered from these resources with your health care providers to see if it is relevant to your individual situation. Health and medical information accessed through these websites is not intended to substitute for or to replace the advice or instruction of a health care professional.
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