Maybe you are more up on pop culture than I am. I was listening to one of Joe Rogan’s podcasts during a drive to Los Angeles and they mentioned that Oprah had a fall recently. Apparently, this fall went viral. You can tell how out of the loop I am regarding viral videos like this. I usually don’t know what is viral until way past the time. In regards to the fall, in her words, she was wearing the “wrong shoes.” After the fall she took her shoes off and kept on speaking during her 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus Tour. She is good. At least no serious injury from what I know. Feel free to go search for this yourself.
This is a perfect time to take a step back and point some things out about falls for older adults in general.
How falls in older adults can be avoided
- Shoes with good grip. Slippery shoes can lead to falls for anyone, especially on a hardwood or concrete floor. We have to pivot, change direction or move quickly. Cute shoes, stylish shoes or comfortable shoes can have cons when it comes to how we navigate our environment with the ability to move without slipping.
- Balance training. There are so many ways to practice balance training. It does not have to be complex. If standing on one leg and balancing with a tall posture is challenging that is where you start. Unfortunately many think that standing on some kind of “balance fitness equipment” is what they should be doing. Be assured, there are many ways to challenge balance on a flat surface. This training should not be super easy. In other words, if standing and balancing are easy then some sort of movement into a balance or while balancing is the next progression. The reason is that when we move we always call on our balance. Wherever you are in the balance spectrum and whatever age you are I encourage you to start now even if you feel as if your balance is good. The analogy I use is that balance is kind of a program running in the background. When your phone is working well you could care less about what it is doing in the background. However if your phone starts to slow you notice it and wonder what else is going on the background. The same awareness goes with your balance. Balance may not be the sexiest thing to do but challenging your balance now can allow you to move with confidence as you get older.
- Strength training. The ability to move confidently is important to climbing stairs or getting out of a chair. The stronger your legs are, not to mention your core the better you are at navigating life. But be assured, strength is just one part of the puzzle. For example, if a 70-year-old can do an impressive leg press that is great. But can they walk upstairs or mount a curb with balance? Strength training also helps to improve or maintain bone density. Think that is not that important? Weak bones + a fall can = broken bones. Here is a short article by Harvard Health about this. Side note: You should also be working on single-leg strength and balance too!
- Agility training. The ability to move one’s feet up and or around things is something we can take for granted as children. We revel at athletes’ ability to move their feet so well. Those sports figures are not able to only move so well because of their great genes but more importantly is that they practiced, improved and challenged their agility. You and your loved ones may never be doing the ickey shuffle to celebrate a touchdown, but you all should be able to move to avoid something in your path without falling. Of course, there are falls that are (which I mentioned above) that unavoidable. What I am talking about is avoidable falls.
- Get your vision & hearing checked. There was a great article in the New York Times titled: “Falls Can Kill You: Here’s How to Minimize the Risk” by Jane E. Brody. Brody discusses the importance of how being vigilant about addressing vision and hearing can reduce the chances of falls. Also, she talks about how medication can create a fall risk. Click here to read the article.
- Make the home safer. Securing rugs and eliminating other things in the household that are easy ways to trip is a good thing to do. If you or your loved one needs help with this often there are agencies that will visit their home and give advice.
Falls are not a normal part of aging
Just because an adult of a certain age falls does not mean that falls are a part of aging. That does not mean they are getting old and things are falling apart. Falls happen. Falls happen during sports. Falls happen when we are not paying attention. I myself took an impressive fall when running on a trail and not paying attention to the roots at my feet. Falls can happen when walking on black ice. What I and other advocates are honing in on are avoidable falls. Things like getting out of a chair, needing to shift your weight when walking or reaching up to get something off of the shelf should not result in a fall.
There should not be an expectation that falls will happen when we get “old” (whatever old means). If someone does fall and does not break a bone the first thing I do is note that their bone density is probably pretty good. Of course, I am not qualified to check that…but especially if it was a pretty bad one I try to let them see the silver lining that they did not break any bones. When strength training is part of a fitness routine
The statistics are pretty bad if someone goes to the hospital due to a fall. Have you seen them? If not check out the National Coalition on Aging’s page about it. Click here to check it out.
What you should do if your parent or loved one suffers a fall
This will probably be my only indirect reference to something in pop culture so don’t get used to it.
In all seriousness when we read in the news about some celebrity dealing with something that we or our loved ones do we sometimes pay more attention than it if is someone who is not a celebrity. That person is in the spotlight and it brings attention to a human experience that you can relate to. This is your chance to take note and be vigilant. This is your chance to cheer your parents on to exercise in any way shape or form and move better. I encourage you regardless of your age to find a way to challenge your balance. You don’t have to do something that could get you a million hits on social media. It may not be sexy…but it can strengthen that foundation for balance as we get older or are at an age where it is important to be vigilant.
Why be vigilant? Be vigilant because what counts is that you are able to do what you want to do and like to do regardless of your age. Everyday life activities or walking down the street should never be a struggle for our parents and loved ones. They deserve a life to be as strong, balanced and agile for as long as possible. Older adult deserves to enjoy the Joy of Movement…not just the youngins.