According to the CDC one in four adults over the age of 65 suffers a fall every year. But while it’s true that the dangers of falling increase as you get older, there are many things you can do right now to help reduce that risk.
Here are ten actions you can take to help you avoid falls in your future.
- Schedule an annual wellness visit
Scheduling an Annual Wellness Visit with your primary care doctor is an easy first step to evaluate your personal fall risk. Your doctor offers fall assessments, such as the 4-Stage Balance Test (PDF, 922KB), to discover stability weaknesses. Your doctor can then create a personalized plan to help improve your balance.
You can also ask your doctor if a medical alert system might be a good option for you. Several Medicare health plans offer them as an included benefit.
- Keep moving
As part of their weekly physical activity, the CDC suggests that older adults consider multicomponent physical activity to improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls or injury from a fall. This includes balance training, aerobic activity, and muscle-strengthening activities.
Some exercise is better than doing none at all, so whatever gets you moving can improve your strength and stability. Many fitness programs such as SilverSneakers® cater to the specific needs of older adults. SilverSneakers provides community-based programs, on-demand videos for at-home workouts, and gym access, so you can participate at the fitness level that suits your needs.
- Be smart about your footwear
Wearing shoes or socks with non-slip grips can help you stand steady inside the house. Avoid walking around in slippery socks as they can greatly increase the risk of falls. Outside the home, rubber-cleated soles are usually the best choice. And taking smaller, more flat-footed steps can help, especially on slippery sidewalks.
- Check your vision
Have you had your eyes checked this year? Poor vision can lead to misjudging how close or far away obstructions are, increasing your risk for falls. Getting your eyes examined and fitted with prescription glasses or contacts (if needed is) an easy way to help prevent falls. It’s something everyone should do on a regular basis, regardless of age.
- Keep a light on
Nightlights are an essential tool for helping prevent falls. Nighttime falls are common for older adults, especially in bedrooms, hallways, and bathrooms. And darkness isn’t just an issue at night. Insufficient lighting can increase the risk of falling at any time of day. Installing brighter lights throughout your house can ensure a clear walking path wherever you go.
- Clear the clutter
As obvious as it might seem, trip hazards are one of the worst offenders when it comes to falling. Unsecured area rugs, power cords, clothes, and even magazines pose a risk. Putting down non-slip mats under rugs (or getting rid of area rugs altogether), bundling up loose power cords, and clearing out old clothes and newspapers will make your spaces safer. Feeling overwhelmed by all your stuff? Consider hiring someone from a home organization site to help de-clutter your home.
- Get screened for osteoporosis
Osteoporosis risk tends to increase as people age. As bone density decreases so does bone strength, increasing the risk of fracture in a fall. Getting a bone density screening is a good first step to assess your bone health. From there, your doctor can suggest medications and lifestyle changes to help build your bones. Since many nutrients are important for bone health, it is important to eat a well-balanced diet containing a variety of foods, including grains, fruits and vegetables, nonfat or low-fat dairy products or other calcium-rich foods, and meat or beans each day.
- Install handrails and grab bars
It’s probably not surprising that the bathroom is one of the slipperiest – and therefore most hazardous – areas of the home. Installing handrails next to the toilet and in the bathtub is a great way to help catch your fall. Stairs are also a major trip hazard. Living in a one-story house is one of the best ways to avoid falling down the stairs. However, if that isn’t an option, installing sturdy handrails next to stairs can provide extra support when going up and down steps. A family member or qualified handymen can install these easily and cheaply if you can’t do it yourself.
- Brush up on your medication’s side effects
Certain medications have a sleep-inducing or disorienting side effect, especially when mixed together. If you regularly take prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines, speak with your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of your medication. They can help you explore best practices for reducing fall risk while the medication is active in your system, such as moving more slowly and making sure you’re well rested.
Lifestyle change programs like Wellvolution® offer ways to help reduce the number of medications you need to take by improving overall health and reversing symptoms of certain chronic conditions.
- Learn to fall safely
Accidents are sometimes unavoidable. Consult with a physical therapist or your medical provider who can help you learn protective techniques such as covering your head to prevent injuries. With a little training, knowledge, and precaution, you can ensure a healthy quality of life for years to come.
Want to learn more about how to take control of your health? Check out Silver Sneakers. This wellness program has an on-demand video library of classes, workouts, and how-to videos you can do at home.