Reducing our Risk for Slips, Trips, and Falls

Jan Fowler

is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.

Reducing our Risk for Slips, Trips, and Falls

By Jan Fowler

Staying involved in physical activity to maintain body strength, balance, and flexibility helps seniors reduce risks for slips, trips, and falls.

We all know of someone who’s had a serious fall.  Falls often lead to injuries and other far-reaching consequences.  For example, did you know that once we’ve suffered a fall, we are more likely to fall again?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately 36 million adults over 65 suffer accidental falls each year, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths.

A few years ago, I personally recognized the need to protect myself against unnecessary falls when I began slipping and sliding on loose gravel, slick surfaces, and protruding sidewalks on my early morning daily walks.  I soon realized it was a wakeup call for me to explore ways to improve my balance and flexibility so I enrolled in Yoga, Tai Chi, Zumba, Dance Ballet, and Silver Sneakers Exercise.

Since then, the benefits to me have been invaluable, for although I may still trip occasionally while crossing a wet surface, I now know how to catch myself before I fall so as to prevent serious injury or harm.

Falls lead to fear, worry, and weakness.  In fact, nearly half the people who are hospitalized with hip fractures are never able to live independently again.  So what can we do to make ourselves safe at home and minimize our risk of falling?

For answers, I turned to retired attorney Mike Sheriff who returned to college to earn a master’s degree in gerontology and who became a frequent speaker on ways to make a house senior-friendly and guard against falls. Here are some hot tips which Mike was kind enough to share with me:

     What are some of the things found in a home environment that may be potentially hazardous?   Long extension or lamp cords, small throw rugs, those big fluffy slippers, as well as very small pets which might appear underfoot without warning, catch you off guard, and cause you to trip.

     What precautions should we take to prevent unnecessary falls? Install safety rails along patio areas and outdoor steps, plus grab bars in the shower, next to toilets, or in areas where you dress. Light your bedroom well, particularly if you get up during the night to attend to the needs of pets or to use your bathroom.

     What can we do to stay physically fit so we feel safe at home, especially if we live alone?  Most important is to stay involved in physical activity, especially walking, to build and maintain body strength, balance, and flexibility.  Maintain your fitness ability so you can always walk well enough to escape danger or disaster.

Falls increase the risk of early death and can often be prevented by careful vigilance.  One of the ways to remain physically strong and independent is to exercise regularly; including weight-bearing activities to maintain overall body tone, strength, fitness, and flexibility.

And it’s wise to check with your doctor or pharmacist to learn of possible side effects or drug interactions involving our medications which could impair balance or judgment.

Now that our malls, gyms, shopping centers, exercise, aerobics and dance classes are opening up for us to enjoy again, it feels great to get back in shape after this long pandemic.  I, for one, just returned from the YMCA an hour ago and am overjoyed to have had the chance to work out in the gym, plus walk laps on the upper track.

There are so many benefits to receive from blending body and mind to renew and activate not only our bodies, but our spirits and soul as well. All are important to prevent needless injury and to help refine and preserve our independence and sense of well-being.

Will I see you at the gym?

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