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The Risk of Falling Increases with the Aging Process



Although anyone can fall, as you age falls become more common and more serious. The good news is that you do not need to let the fear of falling rule your life. With some medical management, physical activity and common sense you can help yourself avoid falls and stay independent longer.

Normal Aging and Risk for Falls

You are more likely to fall as you age because of normal, age-related physical changes and medical conditions - and the drugs that you take for those medical conditions. As you age, time takes its toll on your body and you may find yourself taking more medications or experiencing some limitations in your mobility. While the changes are unique to you, many aging changes are common and put you at higher risk.

  • Poor eyesight. You may not see as well which affects your coordination and balance.
  • Reduced reaction time. The nerves that carry information from your brain to your muscles can deteriorate slowing your reaction time and your ability to move away from obstacles quickly enough or avoid an ice patch on the sidewalk.
  • Decline in muscle strength. Normal decline in your muscle strength and joint flexibility can change how easily you stand up, walk or get out of chairs.
  • Limited movement. If you do not regularly exercise, changes occurring with the aging process can be worse.

What You Can Do to Help Prevent Falling

Everyone gets older but there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of falling. Just by following these things you increase your chances for avoiding falls and remaining independent.

  • Keep moving. Ask your doctor for a general exercise program that may include walking or other group exercises such as water workouts in a pool. Tai chi, a gentle exercise, has been proven very effective in reducing risk for falls.
  • Follow your doctor's recommendation. Exercises your doctor recommends can improve balance, strength, coordination and flexibility. Your doctor may also have referred the physical therapist to your home to give you an individual exercise program to improve your balance, muscle strength and gait (how you take steps).
  • Use medical equipment when appropriate. Your doctor may also recommend a cane or walker to ensure that you are balanced when you are moving. The secret to reducing your risk for falls is moving more and moving safely. You are not helping yourself by moving less.
  • Make your home safer. Check your house for hazards. You may need to make some compromises to make it safer but it's worth it.
  • Stay in touch. If you live alone, ask someone to check on you once daily, or consider paying for an emergency monitoring device. These systems usually have three components: a small radio transmitter (a help button carried or worn by the user); a console connected to the user's telephone; and an emergency response center that monitors calls. When emergency help (medical, fire, or police) is needed, the user presses the transmitter's help button. It sends a radio signal to the console. The console automatically dials one or more pre-selected emergency telephone numbers. Most systems can dial out even if the phone is in use or off the hook. Most systems are programmed to telephone an emergency response center where the caller is identified. The center will try to determine the nature of the emergency. Center staff also may review your medical history and check to see who should be notified.

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