Older adults and fall prevention
For older adults, falls are a major cause of injury. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors (1) and 20% to 30% of people aged 65 and older suffer serious falls each year (2). Furthermore, older adults who fall once are more likely to fall again (2). The risk of falls can increase as a result of several age-related factors such as loss of muscle, strength and balance, or as a result of foot-related problems. The good news is, there are ways to minimize the risk of falling and reduce your risk of injury.
Our bodies lose muscle as we age, but by doing regular physical activity that incorporates weight-bearing exercise, it is possible to build and strengthen your muscles. Exercises that improve balance such as Pilates, yoga, or Tai Chi can also help mitigate falls.
Another contributing factor to falls is poor foot health. Bunions, weak muscles, or poor range of motion in your feet can make it harder to walk.
If you’re worried about your foot health, a visit to the podiatrist can help assess, diagnose and treat lower limb problems to improve your ability to move.
(Source: McMaster University Optimal Aging Portal)
I like to integrate three key points when working with clients who are concerned about falling and reduced mobility.
- Sensitization – it is difficult to move well when you do not feel parts of yourself. One part of movement study is to explore what you sense. Can you feel the floor with your left foot and your right foot? With each toe? Can you feel the space for each of your toes? When we reduce our movement with aging, we reduce the opportunities for our nervous system and our brains to activate in response to the world around us. For yourself, you can walk around barefoot part of the day, or roll a ball with your foot to maintain the flow of sensory information through your feet and legs or any part of you.
- Circulation – when we reduce our movement with aging, we do not support our blood and fluids that fills our joints (synovial) and keeps them moving smoothly, reducing how our fluid self nourishes our other tissues. With limited range of motion, we can starve the inner space of our joints. Over time this contributes to poor joint health. When sitting, your knee is bent – when was the last time you rotated your knee, drawing a circle on the ground below you – as if you were sitting on a sandy beach, you could draw a circle in the sand with your big toe or your heel.
- Tissue building – our bodies are fantastic – they work by demand. So when you place demand on your muscles or connective tissue (fascia) by lifting a weight, by moving your body weight, by bending or squatting, your brain will tell your muscles to make more muscle fibers. There is no age limit on this process; but when we reduce the demand we make of our muscle and connective tissues; we can stop making new fibers. Moving in a way that challenges your body gives it a reason to make more tissues.
Increasing your sensitivity, supporting circulation and tissue building – you will find all of these components in my upcoming Learn to Fall Well and Better Balance series, starting this fall. I will have limited spaces in my studio (3) to respect social distancing and more opportunities to participate online.
For more information https://www.kindpower.ca/somatic-coaching/fall-well/
Here is a free recorded session from this year’s Edmonton Resilience Festival that cover 5 core elements from my Learn to Fall Well Series https://peaceandpower.podia.com/learn-to-fall-well
Here what Marlene, a participant in my Learn to Fall Well and Better Balance classes says,
Fall mitigation has been my goal for the last 2 years. I haven’t made much progress with it. I do everything that people tell you to do, stay strong. But I still have issues with balance. We have addressed more in these few weeks in the class, than I have working the last couple of years with trainers and the walking process. You have to have balance when you’re moving. It is ok to work on balance when you are standing but that’s not when you fall. That was my goal.
I’ve learned what trips me up. I am learning to make that trip up less catastrophic. About half way through the series I fell while walking outside on some ice. Nothing I could do to keep from going down but I went down so softly. I had a really soft fall from something that could have been a much harder fall. I need to know when that happens, I will go down as lightly as possible.