Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider. Some information for this article was taken from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching and http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_4.html
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that one-fourth of Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. According to the National Council on Aging, “Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. However, falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs, and clinical-community partnerships, the number of falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.”
Falling and the fear of falling impact one’s emotional and physical health. Seniors may feel that somehow they have “failed” by having a fall, and regard the fall as a sign of frailty and senility. A loss of pride and self-respect may result. Some folks curtail their activities due to the fear of falling, which can result in reduced social interaction. Social interaction is crucial for us all, especially as we age. Reduced mobility may lead to a downward spiral resulting in greater physical debility and emotional depression.
Hence, maintaining mobility, or the ability to move purposefully, is critical. Harvard Medical School reminds us that “even at older ages — and even if you are already facing declining health or a loss of independence — simple steps toward better health and physical conditioning can improve your abilities and help prevent further loss of movement … It can’t be emphasized enough: engaging in physical activity is the single most important thing you can do to maintain mobility and independence, no matter your age or your health status.” It’s truly never too late to improve one’s health through simple exercises to increase overall conditioning, strength, joint health, flexibility and balance.
Research indicates three areas to focus on in preventing falls: physical activity, medication management, and home modification. Studies demonstrate that persons taking four or more daily medications are more likely to experience a fall. As always, discuss this with your health care provider. Modifying the home and other environments to prevent falls involves changing the environment to make daily activities easier, reduce accidents, and support independent living. This includes removing fall hazards such as clutter, installing supports such as handrails where needed, handholds in the bathroom, and supporting stability when rising from a reclining or sitting position.
Most experts encourage us to follow an evidence-based program if one is available in our communities. The term “evidence-based” refers to an approach that has been scientifically evaluated through research and other studies and demonstrated to, in fact, provide the benefits it claims to provide. Following an evidence-based program ensures outcomes and prevents the waste of time and money, and may prevent injury or harm. See the links below for descriptions of these types of programs.
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Callie Wight is a California state-licensed registered nurse with a Master of Arts in psychology.