This New Year, Face Your Fear of Falling

More than one in four older adults fall each year in the U.S.

Tripping on a rug or slipping on a wet floor is a common accident, and can occur at any age. While many of us shake our head in embarrassment and move on, for others—especially older adults—a fall often leads to injury and a loss of independence, at least for a while.

For this reason, many older people develop a fear of falling. Studies show a fear of falling can keep older adults from going about normal activities and, as a result, they may become frailer, which actually increases their risk of falling.

Many things can cause a fall. Our eyesight, hearing, and reflexes are typically not as sharp as we age. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or thyroid problems, can affect our balance. Some medications can cause dizziness or confusion, making us more likely to fall. Safety hazards in our homes and communities are a risk, too.

Exercises can help improve our balance and strengthen our muscles, at any age.

The good news is, if we take care of our overall health, we may also lower our chances of falling. Start with your next check-up with your doctor; your healthcare provider can evaluate your risk for falling, review your medicines, or even suggest supplements, such as vitamin D, to improve bone health.

Exercises can help improve our balance and strengthen our muscles, at any age. Tai chi is a good example, with classes available at local community centers.

Have your eyes checked annually, and update your eyeglasses if needed. If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking or hiking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Finally, make your home safer by ridding your walkways and stairways of clutter. Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower, as well as next to the toilet. Put railings on both sides of the stairs. You also should evaluate the light in your home, and add more or brighter light bulbs, if needed.

In addition to practical lifestyle adjustments, there are numerous resources and programs available in our community, including a Matter of Balance. A Matter of Balance is an award-winning, proven workshop that teaches practical strategies to reduce your fear of falling and increase your activity level. Classes are held in Delaware County and central Ohio locations throughout the year.

Remember, you have the power to prevent a fall.

Clare Edwards, MPH, CPH, is the community education and initiatives manager at SourcePoint.  This article was also published in the Delaware Gazette.

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