"Can you help my aging parent? They’re living alone and I’m in another city. I’m worried they’re going to fall and hurt themselves. They won’t go to a gym, and I saw on your website that you offer in-home fitness training to older adults.”
I’ve seen many emails and received just as many phone calls like this. Increasingly, adult children are living in different cities from their elderly parents and they feel helpless. They may see their parents infrequently, and each time, the changes in their loved ones can be an eye-opener. Time is marching on and the physical declines are more marked with each passing visit.
In many cases, they want to help their parents maintain their independence and stay in their homes. And they know one slip, trip, or fall is all that separates them from permanent residency at a long-term care facility. When I do visit their parents, we begin to work on the main components of fall prevention: balance, strength, and mobility. The exercises I teach them all help to alleviate the fear of falling.
And it inspired the topic of my next book, Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall. The rest of this post is an excerpt from my upcoming book. As we age, our risk of falling increases, as does the likelihood that a fall will cause an injury. In Canada, falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians. Twenty to thirty percent of seniors experience one or more falls each year. Falls are the cause of 85 per cent of seniors' injury-related hospitalizations. You may be surprised to learn that falls are the cause of 95 per cent of all hip fractures. And fully half of all falls causing hospitalization happen at home.
In the United States, data reported by the National Council on Aging show that one quarter of Americans over the age of sixty-five will fall each year. A fall is the prevailing source for hospital admissions in the elderly. An emergency room in the United States treats a senior fall victim every 11 seconds. And if you’re an older adult, you’re more likely to die from a fall than any other cause.
In the past, research attributed the risk of falls exclusively to aging. That is, the older we got, the more likely it was that we will fall. In fact, it’s more like aging and lack of physical activity are working in concert to increase the likelihood that we will fall: as we age, we are typically less active, our bodies gets weaker, our bones get more brittle, and we’re more likely to fall. And when we do sustain a fall later in life, we’re also more likely to be injured.
￼Finding time to do these exercises doesn’t have to be complicated. When I work with clients in their homes, I send follow-up emails that list and describe the exercises we’ve done together. My goal is to make them comfortable with doing the exercises on their own. In many cases, they write out the exercises on a sheet of paper for quick reference. You know, something that they can leave on the counter and refer to throughout the day. The following list is your quick reference guide.
Want to learn more? Balance and Your Body will be available in paperback and e-book format this summer.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.