More than one in three adults age 65 or older falls each year, but less than half talk to their health care providers about it.
Given that falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older adults, and that more than 14 percent of Oakland County’s population is 65 or older, local therapy provider The Recovery Project is urging area seniors and residents caring for aging parents to invest in fall prevention education and awareness.
“While everyone knows the danger of falling associated with ice and snow, many do not realize that the home can be just as dangerous for seniors and aging adults,” said The Recovery Project co-CEO and Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults Polly Swingle. “Luckily, there are many precautions seniors can take to make their home environments safer, enhance their overall well-being and protect themselves from falls, leading to an overall better quality of life.”
The Recovery Project recommends aging adults take a multi-tiered approach to fall prevention, with activities including physical fitness, home modification and use of assistive devices. Immediate steps to take include:
- Build strength, balance and coordination through safe exercises. Most community centers and specialized rehabilitation facilities offer fitness programs tailored specifically to the needs of older adults, and seniors can also participate in community events like 5K walks to stay active. Research shows that a minimum of 50 hours of exercise over time is needed to maintain overall well being and to be effective in reducing the risk and rate of falls.
- Eliminate or minimize fall hazards in the home environment. Remove boxes, electrical cords and other loose objects from walkways; secure loose rugs or remove them completely; store items in easily accessible locations within easy reach; and ensure all rooms and hallways are well-lit.
- Utilize assistive devices to make daily tasks easier and safer. Use a cane or walker when moving through the home and out- doors; install helpful devices throughout the house, such as hand rails on stairways, raised toilet seats with arm rests, grab bars and a plastic seat in the shower, and a handheld shower nozzle.
The Recovery Project offers several aging and wellness programs carefully designed to help seniors prevent falls through safe and effective strength training, as well as extensive education. The firm’s supported fitness program includes one on one training sessions developed by physical therapists to address strength, flexibility and balance. Once seniors have completed that program, The Recovery Project also offers independent fitness programs that are loosely structured, allowing clients to safely work out with familiar equipment and assistance from trainers as needed to maintain wellness.