Despite what we may believe about the risk of injury that comes with getting older, falling is not a normal part of aging. Yet it happens in staggering numbers:
About 36 million older adults fall each year – and this results in around 32,000 deaths.
When it comes to older adults, falls can lead to broken bones. However, if a senior has a condition such as osteoporosis, this increases the chances of life-threatening bone fractures.
It’s true that as we age we experience a decline in function but that doesn’t mean that fall prevention shouldn’t be a priority. All it takes is a focus on balance and strength.
Through strength and balance exercises, as well as physical therapy, the risk of falling can be significantly decreased.
Let’s look at how physiotherapy for seniors can help prevent falls as well as some easy exercises that can help improve strength, stability, flexibility, and balance:
How Physiotherapy for Seniors Can Help Prevent Falls
Physiotherapy treatment is not designed solely for rehabilitation. Physical therapy for seniors can help improve their strength, balance, and stability and prevent falls from happening in the first place.
There are different types of therapy that seniors can participate in. Physiotherapists can work with aging adults in a clinic setting or at home in order to devise a treatment plan to improve strength and balance.
Overall, physiotherapy can help older adults enjoy an independent lifestyle!
The Importance of Balance Exercises for Older Adults
Balance is the ability to control your body’s position whether you are stationary or moving. Balance training can help improve coordination and prevent falling or stumbling.
Improving balance also helps to promote stable hips, ankles, shoulders, and knees to provide more stability in your movement and prevent the need for surgeries such as knee replacements.
It vastly increases your reaction speed as well if you happen to trip and fall- thus preventing stumbles.
Overall, improving balance will improve long-term health, especially for older adults in their everyday life.
- Single Limb Stance: Hold onto the back of a steady chair, lifting up one foot at a time and balancing on the other foot. Hold the position for as long as possible before switching feet.
- Walk Heel to Toe: Walking heel to toe makes your legs stronger and improves your balance. Put your right foot in front of your left foot so that your heel touches the toes of your left foot. Move your left foot in front of your right foot and put your weight on your heel before shifting it to your toes. Repeat this for 20 steps.
- Back Leg Raise: Stand behind a chair and hold on as you slowly lift your right leg straight back without bending your knees. Hold that position for a second and gently lower your leg before repeating on the other side.
- Side Rocking: Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and pressed firmly into the ground. Transfer your weight to your right foot and slowly lift your leg foot off the ground, holding for 30 seconds. Slowly put your foot back down and repeat on the other side. Use a chair for balance if you need to.
The Importance of Strength Exercises for Older Adults
A large part of maintaining your balance is building strength in your body. Strength training can also address decreased energy and difficulties moving due to muscle loss.
When it comes to fall prevention for older adults, building strength can also improve stability when it comes to squatting, bending, and lifting. With more stability comes less risk of falling.
- Wall Pushups: Stand about 3 feet away from a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward and place your hands on the wall in line with your shoulders, keeping your back straight. Lower your body toward the wall then push back up.
- Pelvic Tilts: Place one knee on the floor and the other foot in front of you. Tighten your bum and tilt your hips slightly forward, holding for 3 seconds. Tilt your hips back and hold for 3 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
- Shoulder Blade Squeeze: In a chair, sit up straight and rest your hands in your lap. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other. Try to keep your shoulder down and not hunched toward your years. Hold for 3 seconds.
- Knee Lifts: Sit in a chair with your arms resting in your lap. Lift your left until your knee and the back of your thigh are 2-3 inches off your seat. Pause for 3 seconds, lower your leg, and repeat on the other side.
Preventing Falls and Improving Overall Health
As an older adult, falling down can be a scary thing. It can lead to injuries, surgeries, and even death.
For those who experience fall, it can shake their confidence with mobility and impede their quality of life.
Addressing strength and balance when it comes to seniors will not only improve their overall physical health but also increase their stability and prevent falls from happening in the first place.
Many local clinics like Grey Method Physiotherapy strives to provide quality rehabilitation therapy to those who have suffered an injury but we also recognize the importance of injury prevention.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve your physical strength (or the strength of an aging loved one) in order to prevent serious falls and injury, contact a clinic close to you!