I am well and truly getting old. Not only have I recently run a race in the 50-59 category (albeit 7 months before my time), I had a fall today. It absolutely knocked the stuffing out of me. Had to take myself for a little sit down and a good swear. In fact I was too shaken up to swear too vigoursly, just a couple of quiet “buggers”.
Whilst there was definitely a reason for my falling – inappropriate footwear, rushing over rubbly rocks and broken bricks, carrying large plastic parts of a climbing gym, trying to get something done in a rush before taking the kids to school – it did get me to thinking how awful it would be to fall when you are 80, especially if there was no apparent reason for it.
- One in three people aged 65 and over report falling at least once/year.
- About 10% result in serious injury such as fractures
- Falls can lead to the need for residential care – don’t know that I’m ready for a nursing home just yet, but then, who ever is?
Falls are not an inevitable part of ageing. There’s lots you can do to prevent them.
Falls Risk Factors
- Age: The risk of falling increases as you age. Women are more likely than men to fall
- Previous falls: Approx 60% of people who fall, will fall again in the next 6 months
- Decreased bone density. This both contributes to the risk of falling, and often can mean worse injuries as the result of a fall
- Lack of regular exercise. This can cause poor muscle tone, decreased strength, and loss of bone mass and flexibility, which in turn will increase the risk of a fall.
- Side effects of medication can make people dizzy and susceptible to falling
- Environmental hazards
- Inability to realise own physical limitation (NOTE TO SELF)
- One of the keys to preventing falls, is to get active before you reach middle age, and stay active with good muscle tone, bone strength, balance and flexibility into old age.
- Take it easy if you’re not as young as you used to be
- Address environmental factors
- Address any side effects caused by medication by speaking with your supervising doctor about it
The Department of Veterans Affairs document “PreventingFalls” has some good info on the subject. There are a couple of exercises below which they recommend. They will be familiar to those of you who come to our FitSquad and Circuit Classes. The full document can be found at:
Adapted from the Otago Exercise Programme to prevent falls in older adults – ACC (New Zealand)
Stand up tall and look ahead
Place your feet shoulder-width apart
Squat down half way, bending your knees
The knees go over the toes
When you feel your heels start to lift, straighten up
Sit To Stand
You can do this exercise while you watch TV
Sit on a chair which is not too low
Place your feet behind your knees
Lean forward over your knees
Stand up slowly without usingyour hands
Stand for five seconds, then sit down slowly without using your hands Repeat
Note: use one hand for support if having difficutly
Adapted from the Choose Health; Be Active booklet,
Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Australian Government
Department of Health and Ageing.
Single Leg Balance
Stand next to the kitchen bench or the back of a sturdy chair– hold on if you need to
Lift your right leg and stand for 10 seconds on your left leg
Repeat 5 times
Repeat with other leg
If you feel steady enough, do it without holding on
If you are very steady on your feet, try this with your eyes shut
Heal Toe Walking
Stand next to a support (the kitchen bench will do) for this walking exercise
Step forward by putting the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot, so that they touch (or almost touch) and then step forward with the other foot
Repeat for 2 minutes
If you can do this easily without holding on, try it with your eyes shut. Have someone stand next to you to support you if you need help