Age in Place But Don’t Fall

By on July 26, 2021

According to the CDC, every year a quarter of seniors will experience a fall. Even worse, one out of five of those falls leads to serious injury. However, there are a host of good arrangements for aging in place and many precautions that minimize the risk of taking a tumble. These include improving the senior’s health, making some changes in the home, and keeping an eye out for common pitfalls.

Stay Fit and Watch Your Health

The healthier and more active people are, the less likely they are to fall. If they do take a fall, healthy people tend to recover faster.

Are you picturing hours-long hikes or wild flailing along with an aerobics instructor? If those aren’t a senior’s cup of tea, don’t worry. Seniors can build up their strength and cardiovascular health with a quick stroll around the neighborhood.

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The Mayo Clinic suggests getting thirty minutes of moderate activity a day, most days a week. This could be anything from walking to dancing to housework. Seniors with complicated health conditions may need to adapt their exercises. Their healthcare team or physical therapist can give advice. Generally speaking, someone who is breathing faster but can hold a conversation is exercising moderately.

Flexibility and balance also prevent falls. If you’re stiff when you get out of bed, those rigid muscles make you more likely to fall. Easy stretches and balance exercises on one foot or on a balance trainer can help here.

Make Your Home Safe and Easy to Navigate

A few home improvements may drastically reduce a senior’s chances of falling. In general, you’ll want to remove hazards and streamline the floor plan. A few common renovations include lighting up dark hallways and tricky staircases and adding grip bars and non-slip decals to the bathtub.

Eventually, you may want to move a senior’s bedroom and the things they regularly use to the first floor, limiting their need to struggle with the stairs. And oil up or replace any doors and drawers that stick in place. A senior might fall while wrestling with them.

Next, take a look at your yard. Does your dog like to dig pits? Fill those in before someone trips over them. Keep your lawn mowed so a senior can see hazards like irrigation hoses in the yard and the edging around flower beds. Finally, look out for hollows where rain collects. These tend to become muddy and slippery. You may want to put down gravel, re-install the turf, or create another flower bed there.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive home renovation guide, the AARP publishes a comprehensive checklist. This gives a number of tips for making a home senior-friendly, accessible, and free of tripping hazards.

Common Pitfalls

Thinking about investing in the soft, thick carpet? It may seem like a good idea at first. After all, you’re literally cushioning the floor. However, very soft carpets may actually increase the chance of falls. They can be so silky or squishy that it’s hard for a senior to keep balance.

Beware of rugs as well. Seniors may catch their toes or walker on the edge and trip. Some rugs also don’t grip wood or tile floors well. They may slide and bunch up when stepped on. For extra assurance, consider one of the many wearable life alert systems available, or a home setup that detects sudden motion such as a fall.

Some older people appreciate having a ramp up to the front door. Others find that the angle of the ramp is murder on their bad ankle. They prefer to find their balance one step at a time. Talk to your loved ones about what’s most comfortable for them. If you’re caring for multiple seniors with different needs, you may want to consider a removable ramp that fits atop the front steps.

Next, take a close look at the floor. Are there any other tripping hazards lying around? These might include power cords from the lamps or entertainment center, the feet of a freestanding lamp or pedestal table, or even the family’s black cat who loves to sleep by the couch and is basically invisible at night. You may want to corral the cords, reposition the furniture and move the cat’s bed to somewhere out of the way.

Finally, watch as your seniors get out of bed or off of their favorite armchair. Furniture that’s too tall or too low can be hazardous. Too high and you risk sliding off the edge of the bed, too low and it will take serious upper body strength to get up.

You may be able to adjust the height with cushions, cut down furniture legs, or try different mattress thicknesses. Some beds can also change height at the push of a button. However, these may be pricey.

Fitness and Fall-Free Living

Remember that statistic above, that one in four seniors will fall? It’s worrisome, but for every senior that falls, three more don’t. The best way for you or a loved one to stay on your feet, stay healthy, and stay independent is through a multi-pronged approach.

Find activities to get moving for at least half an hour a day. Streamline your floor plan, adding balance-friendly features like grab bars and banishing tripping hazards. And if you’re doing this for others, remember to get the seniors involved. Talk to them about what they prefer. By working together, you can help your seniors keep their balance and avoid dangerous falls.

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Age in Place But Don’t Fall