A recent study revealed that the number of deaths from senior falls has tripled. This is not new. A 2015 study also concluded that the number of falls was increasing, even when America’s growing senior population was taken into account.
For those over age 65, falls are the leading reason we go to the emergency room. Falls can start a vicious cycle: A simple fracture or brain injury can lead to hospitalization, which can bring its own problems, such as catching an infection or becoming weak from staying in bed.
Being weak can lead to more falls and more decline. An older study concluded that one-fourth of seniors who had a hip fracture died within six months. Many of those who survived ended up in a nursing home and were still there a year later.
What can increase our risk of falls? Sometimes it’s foot pain, lower body weakness or vision problems. Sometimes it’s a sedentary lifestyle, or scatter rugs in the wrong places.
Sometimes it’s the drugs we take. When you get a new prescription, ask the doctor about side effects. Also check with the pharmacist, who knows what other drugs you might be taking.
Whatever the cause, we can avoid falls. The recent study divided participants into two groups: those in an exercise program and those not in one. Those who exercised fared better when it came to reducing falls.
Contact your senior center to ask about balance classes, either at the center or through the local hospital. Look for senior-oriented exercise classes to build muscle strength.
Walking is your next best bet, aiming for a half-hour walk a few times a week. Explore tai chi for leg strength, flexibility and balance.
Also look online for the free Tufts University booklet called Growing Stronger, available at http://growingstronger.nutrition.tufts.edu.