As we age, the one event that is most likely to keep us from enjoying life is falling.
Each year, 25 percent of older adults are at risk of falling and those who have experienced one fall are three times more likely to have more. In fact, every 11 seconds, an older adult goes to an emergency room to receive treatment from a fall injury, according to the National Council on Aging. A fall can often start the ball rolling down the slope to dependent living.
What can you do to avoid falling? Here are a few simple suggestions to help find the right balance to keep safe.
Exercise to improve strength and balance reduces the risk of falling. Our city community centers, the YMCA and other local gym facilities offer programs to address strength and balance, such as yoga or tai chi. Many insurance plans have exercise benefit programs that may even include a gym membership in your coverage.
Review all medications (both prescribed and over the counter) with your health care provider or with your pharmacist. Medications can often have side effects that can cause balance issues.
Wear safe shoes. Do not wear flip-flops, worn out shoes or slippers that offer no support.
Have your vision checked. Age-related vision changes affect your mobility. Clouded vision issues more than double the likelihood of falling.
Install handrails. Install handrails on all stairways, even if only two steps.
Secure small rugs. These are hazardous and often increase slipping or tripping.
Install handhold bars and other safety equipment. Install handhold bars in bathrooms including showers, tubs and toilets. Place slip-resistant mats in the tub or shower.
Evaluate your home’s lighting. Bright lights help you see pathways and hazards.
Remove clutter. De-clutter around the spaces you occupy and remember that pets can be a tripping hazard.
Do not carry heavy or awkward loads. Always be cautious and don’t attempt to navigate stairs with objects such as laundry baskets. Also, make sure you keep one hand on the railing for safety.
Depression, loneliness, fear of falling and lack of social connections are all fall risks. Take advantage of community centers for a variety of activities. Transportation assistance is available. Ask your local senior center for assistance. In Kirkland, the Peter Kirk Community Center can assist older adults, helping them find the right programs. Call 425-587-3360.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that death rates from falls among adults 65 and older increased more than 30 percent between 2007 and 2016. We can change this trend!
Coming of Age…Again is edited by the Kirkland Senior Council, a group the city of Kirkland created in 2001 to advocate for older adults in our community. The council is made up of people living or working in Kirkland who want to improve and maintain the quality of life for people in Kirkland as they grow older. Membership opens in the fall.