May 21, 2011
Falls can sideline seniors like no other risk. But exercise is the secret weapon that may help seniors improve strength, flexibility and balance needed to prevent these mishaps. Sometimes all older adults need is little motivation. Companionship can be the motivator.
Q. Several of my mother's friends have fallen and broken hips, and I'm worried about her, since she lives alone. I saw a bruise on her leg the last time I was there and I suspect she might have taken a tumble. Any suggestions?
One in three adults over age 65 falls each year in the United States, notes Chuck Kimmel, ATC, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA). "Falling injuries for senior citizens can be not only traumatic, but also life threatening and the healing process is slower. Incorporating balance, strength and flexibility routines into daily activities is essential to stave off the risk of falling."
Exercise has long been purported to help balance and a review of 34 studies confirms that to be true. Researchers looked at studies that examined more than 2,800 participants, primarily healthy women, who were on average over the age of 75. These results appear in The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.1
This review shows gains in balancing ability across different groups of adults who participated in a variety of exercises including walking, strength and balance training, dancing and tai chi. Some of the balance exercises included rising from a chair and training on one leg.
This is important information that could help your mother improve her safety and quality of life. "Seniors can help protect themselves against injuries by making some very simple changes around the house and by adopting an ongoing exercise regime," said James H. Beaty, MD, president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
NATA and the (AAOS) offer active seniors the following guidelines to guard against injuries caused by falling:
- Strength training with weight-bearing and resistance exercise works for all age groups.
- Practice exercises designed to help improve balance.
- Exercise at least three days a week to improve strength, flexibility and balance.
- Choose low-impact exercises to avoid stress on your joints.
- Stretch daily to improve flexibility and mobility.
- Be creative! Try tai chi, pilates and yoga for variety.
If your mother needs motivation to start exercising, consider companionship. Contact her local senior or fitness center or Area Agency on Aging to learn about programs for older adults that could benefit her in a group setting.
If your mother doesn't have regular companionship, consider hiring a helper from Home Instead Senior Care. Home Instead CAREGiversSM are screened, trained, bonded and insured and trained in the latest safety practices. CAREGivers often help motivate older adults by participating in hobbies and activities such as exercise with them.
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