As I near my 60th birthday (the first Saturday in September – this year), I have been taking stock of many issues that seem to creep into one’s thoughts as we age:
- Have I done more good than bad in my life?
- What if I die today, would my family be ok?
- Do I have more assets than debt?
- Have I lived up to the expectations that I (and my father) had for me?
- Will my mind or my body go first?
Well, at 60 years old, some of these questions and self-reflections may be a bit premature; however, some areas of my aging process are becoming abundantly clear. For example, right now my body is winning the deterioration race.
How many activities have I given up in the recent years? Activities like jumping while playing basketball (how can you play basketball and not jump? –Thank goodness my mind has become more devious and sneaky). I use to jump off the deck of my sailboat, which is 4+ feet about the dock, but now it hurts to think about (well, if the truth be told, it is the landing that hurts not the jumping). I use to enjoy standing outside at night, peering at the sky filled with stars while looking straight up (now if I do that my head becomes full of stars – called vertigo).
All this wasteful machination gave me pause and allowed me some time to consider why seniors (a fact I can now only fight through my actions, no longer my chronological age) fall so much compared to other age groups. Seems the answer would be simple, and in many ways it is; yet the seemingly inevitable result of aging (falling and hurting ourselves) is still, at least somewhat, avoidable.
Lisa Wiseman (BSCN, RN, President of Elder Home Health Care, Inc.) of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, sums up the reasons for falling concisely, “Most of all falls we see are related to impaired mobility, sensory changes, balance disturbances, medication influences, blood pressure fluctuations, dehydration, confusion, agitation disorientation, etc.”
This insight doesn’t change that some facts* are quite disturbing:
- 1/3 of the elderly population over 65 falls each year
- 1/2 of the elderly population over 80 falls each year
- Elders who fall are 2 to 3 times more likely to fall again
- Falls are the leading cause of death due to accident
- Falls are responsible for 25% of hospital admissions and 40% of nursing home admissions
- 20% to 30% of seniors fear falling
*The above facts were taken from Phillips Lifeline, an online source.
Additionally, $20 billion dollars in the US is spent annually on medical issues related to falls, with the average cost per a fall injury $19,440. (Facts from the Elder Fall Prevention Act).
The bottom line for us is: How do we prevent or reduce falls from occurring so frequently?
A simple answer: Stay young!
Wishful thinking, I know. Well, falls are often related to our bodies aging and getting weaker. So, slowing that process down will in affect reduce the incidents of falling.
At the center of the aging process is the weakening of our “core strength.” These are the muscles found around the abdomen and the back that are attached to the spine and pelvis. They are the key to achieving sound balance.
Work on keeping your “core” strong and you will achieve better balance, thus reducing the risks of falling. Simple! Tell your elders (like me) to see their physician, develop a plan to exercise more, and work on developing a stronger core. This way, you will spend more time on your feet than on your back.