Most adults don’t think about their balance until they fall. The fact is, balance declines begin somewhere between 40 to 50 years of age. The National Institute of Health reports that one in three people over 65 will experience a fall each year. Combined with the projection that in Richmond alone by 2030, there will be more adults over 65 years than kids 18 and younger; we can safely say this demographic is exploding.
The question becomes what we can do to protect ourselves, our clients, and our loved ones, and what should we accept as the normal aging process. Here are a few facts:
- Inside the inner ear is the vestibular system, where we perceive balance. This system connects to the brain, which gives us a message when we are about to fall and directs the body to take corrective action. But with age, cells in the vestibular system die off, affecting our ability to correct our position.
- Sight changes with age affect depth perception and sensitivity to contrast. This manifests in poor night vision and distortion.
- Blood pressure can dip suddenly when changing positions like sitting to standing, or bending over. Lightheadedness and even fainting can happen when this occurs.
- Reflexes and coordination slow with age.
- Muscle mass and strength decreases; we lose the power to react swiftly.
- Medications can interfere with balance and increase fall risk.
Countless research articles in peer-reviewed journals prove engaging in balance exercises substantially reduces fall risk. Fall prevention programs address muscle strengthening exercises and practicing stabilizing body weight, striving for minimal support from walls, chairs, walkers, etc. In addition, a big focus is mindfulness training, such as practicing sit to stand and staying aware of one’s surroundings with proper footing.
Falls are serious at any age, yet fractures are more likely as a person ages. Safety measures to prevent falls, along with educating seniors to always remain alert, work on balance, and eat healthy for optimal bone density are essential for minimizing the ramifications of falls and fractures. Inevitably, aging changes our physiological abilities, yet lifestyle management can help prevent and minimize the risk.
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