Approximately one-third of the population of elders in the U.S. falls annually. With increasing age, the risk of falls proportionately increases. Over half of all seniors in their 80s fall every year. With balance issues being the second leading reason for these falls among seniors, it’s no wonder it is a subject of interest for the residents of Discovery Village and others who reside in a retirement community in Florida. There are ways to improve balance, however, and prevent falls.
Common Reasons for Falls
You do not have to consider yourself a victim of declining age with a high risk of having a hazardous fall. First, it helps to become aware of the causes of falls among the elderly. Information can be the first line of defense against falls. The following are the most common reasons elderly people fall:
- Your legs and hips may be in a weakened state, making it more difficult to walk.
- You may have diminished vision, which leads to falls because you don’t see clearly.
- It may be difficult for you to stand erect because of spinal degeneration or poor posture.
- You may stumble because of difficulty lifting your feet.
- You may take medication that either decreases balance or causes dizziness.
- You may experience light-headedness because of low blood pressure.
Three Elements of Balance
Part of achieving good balance is understanding the three basic elements of balance, which are:
- The inner ear. There is a fluid-filled canal in your inner ear which provides the brain with important information about the position of your head and movement in relation to gravity. Temporary changes in the balance structure of your inner ear can cause vertigo or dizziness.
- Visual cues. Your eyes give you critical information about your environment and can help prevent falls by identifying potential obstacles and hazards.
- Internal spatial orientation. The importance of internal spatial orientation is that it communicates to you where your legs and arms are positioned within the space you occupy.
When your inner ear, eyes, and internal spatial orientation work together as they should, you are equipped to remain active and independent without losing your balance and falling.
7 Simple Ways to Improve Balance
There are some important disclaimers and safety tips to follow, which are important to read and take heed to. First, see seven easy ways to improve your balance:
- Wear shoes that are smooth on the bottom, which makes them less likely to trip you. Shoes that have tacky rubber on bottom might tend to trip you up.
- If you are in beginning stages of regaining your sense of balance, practice in the kitchen, keeping a firm grasp on the kitchen counter with one hand as you go along. Step forward, sideways, and backwards as you hold on.
- Practice stepping over items that are 6 inches high or less. Use something soft to step over, such as children’s stuffed animals. Be sure to hold onto something as you practice stepping over.
- When exercising, keep an armless chair, such as a dining chair, next to you so that you can lean on it, as needed. When you need to rest, it’s also handy for resting from the exertion of exercise.
- You can enhance exercise that improves balance by wearing one-or two-pound ankle and/or wrist bands.
- If you have difficulty walking in a straight line, painters tape can provide you with the training you need to overcome the problem. Lay down some painters tape in a hallway or in your living room. Simply practice walking forward, sideways, and backwards on the straight line.
- A more advanced challenge for improving balance is to hold a notepad or piece of paper in your hands and gaze at it while walking.
A Few Words of Caution
Be sure to check with your doctor before trying balance exercises because you could possibly have some type of serious problem, such as chronic dizziness, vertigo, Meniere’s disease, or lightheadedness caused by medications. See the following additional common sense safety tips to consider when trying to improve balance:
- If you have seriously poor balance or are in advanced years, it may be necessary to have close supervision as you try to improve your balance.
- Always be aware of your posture, and maintain your weight over your ankles.
- Do not make quick changes in position or fast turns or movements.
- If you have balance issues, hold onto a chair when performing standing or seated exercises. Hold on with a finger, one hand, or two hands.
- Rise from a chair slowly at all times.
- When exercising or standing, do not close your eyes.
Maintaining balance truly is an essential issue. In fact, statistics link falls with a significant number of fatalities among seniors every year. Enjoying all of the many activities at our carefree retirement community at Discovery Village begins with ensuring that you are safe. We urge you to practice balance as needed and as allowed by your physician so that you might avoid a hazardous fall.
Discovery Village at Deerwood offers a variety of senior living programs to keep seniors healthy and active. Learn about our senior living options and amenities today when you contact us at 904.667.3500.