Caring Currents

Farewell to Falls

Last updated: May 28, 2008

Falling.jpeg

As we age, there's a natural loss of balance that can lead to catastrophic falls. The stats for stumbles for the senior set are alarming: Of the folks who fracture a hip after taking a tumble, only 25 percent make a complete recovery, 40 percent require at least temporary nursing home care, and almost 25 percent over the age of 50 die within 12 months of a hip fracture, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.

Data like that is downright depressing.  But seniors can help to prevent falls by keeping their balance skills sharp as they age -- and even improve these abilities -- through balance training exercises.

Balance is important for such everyday activities as pulling on pants while standing, getting in and out of a car, and navigating varied terrain such as curbs and stairs -- and it can help your parent stay independent by preventing injury.

Physical activities that focus on balance include tai chi, pilates, and yoga, and specific balance training classes are popping up at many gyms and senior centers. But your parents can also work on mastering these moves at home. Both the AARP and the National Institute of Aging Senior Health section list basic exercises that boost balance skills. If your parents have previously taken spills, or have mobility issues, make sure to check with their doctor for a referral to a balance clinic or physical therapist before starting an exercise program.

Like most kinds of activities, to reap the rewards your parents will want to work on their balance at least two or three times a week. By the way, the benefits of balance-enhancing exercises aren't limited to the elderly. So join your parents as they walk heel-to-toe with a paper plate on their heads, as such training may one day save you from taking a life-altering topple.

Image by Flickr user star5112 used under the Creative Commons attribution license.