The Risk of Falling Increases with the Aging Process

Although anyone can fall, as a person ages falls become more common and more serious. The good news is that older adults do not need to let the fear of falling rule their lives. With some medical management, physical activity and common sense  older individuals can help themselves avoid falls and stay independent longer.

Normal Aging and Risk for Falls

A person is more likely to fall as he or she ages because of normal, age-related physical changes and medical conditions - and the drugs that a person takes for those medical conditions. When we - age, time takes its toll on our body and individuals may find themselves taking more medications or experiencing some limitations in mobility. While the changes are unique to many aging changes are common and put a senior at higher risk.

  • Poor eyesight. Seniors may not see as well which affects their coordination and balance.
  • Reduced reaction time. The nerves that carry information from the brain to the muscles can deteriorate slowing our reaction time and the ability to move away from obstacles quickly enough or avoid an ice patch on the sidewalk.
  • Decline in muscle strength. Normal decline in muscle strength and joint flexibility can change how easily an older person stands up, walks or gets out of chairs.
  • Limited movement. If someone does 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 that can be done to help reduce the risk of falling. Just by following these things an older individual can  increase his or her chances for avoiding falls and remaining independent.

  • Keep moving. Seniors should ask their doctors 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 the doctor's recommendation. Exercises a doctor recommends can improve balance, strength, coordination and flexibility. The doctor may also have referred the physical therapist to the home to give you an individual exercise program to improve balance, muscle strength and gait (how you take steps).
  • Use medical equipment when appropriate. The doctor may also recommend a cane or walker to ensure the older adult is balanced when  moving. The secret to reducing the risk for falls is moving more and moving safely. Seniors are not helping themselves by moving less.
  • Make the home safer. Seniors or their family caregivers should check the house for hazards. Some compromises may need to be made to make it safer but it's worth it.
  • Stay in touch. If a senior lives alone, he or she should ask someone to check on him or her 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 a person's medical history and check to see who should be notified.
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