Aging: It Doesn’t Have To Be a Balancing Act

You know the feeling of unease; you’ve called Aunt Gracie for the third time and she still hasn’t answered the phone or returned the call. You wonder, “Is she OK? Has she fallen?”

Families with older relatives and friends who live alone are right to be concerned. One in three older adults fall each year. And the incidence of falling increases with age.

The good news, according to Lesley Weinberg, a physical therapist with Virginia Mason, is that falls are preventable and not a normal part of aging.

“Maintaining independence and remaining in one’s home environment is a goal that most of us strive for,” she says. Both the American Geriatric Society and the British Geriatric Society recently revised the recommendations, and below are the essential steps you or your family members should take to prevent falls:

  • Review medications with your physician every year.
  • Have your vision checked regularly. Avoid using bifocals or trifocals when walking.
  • Take adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium to support bone health. Consult your doctor to discuss specific amounts.
  • Pick proper foot wear: shoes with low heels and support in the heel as well as adequate amount of room for your forefoot.
  • Drink enough water. Recommended amounts are eight to 10 glasses of water per day.
  • Keep a safe home environment. A safe home includes proper lighting, installation of handrails and grab bars as well as keeping clutter off the floor.
  • Get regular exercise. The U.S. National Institute of Health recommends exercise programs for seniors that include:

Endurance training
Strength training
Balance exercises
Flexibility exercises

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