Possible vs. Inevitable: The Importance of Preventing Falls… and How to Do It!
Several weeks ago, a woman commented on an article I’d done about getting older vs. getting old. She told a story about taking a bad fall over a concrete curb, sitting there for a few moments, and then moving on.
What’s notable about her story is that at 76, she got up and kept going. She lost only a tiny fraction of her flexibility. She didn’t land in the hospital, decline and die within six months – unlike far too many older people.
The Senior Health & Wellness Blog posted a quick review of the stats on our ‘splats’, if you will, and the extraordinary cost we pay when we don’t keep our balance.
The Story of One Woman
The woman in question, let’s call her Marge, banged her head, elbow and a few other places. It took her a moment to get her bearings. Then she got right up and walked away. Most women of that age don’t get up again. Far too many die within six months of a fall.
Marge is different.
Why? When she wrote to me, she explained that she’d started doing yoga and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) when she was 62. She works out on weights. She works on her balance and flexibility. She’s not a lifelong athlete.
I’ll say it again: She began at 62.
When she did see her doctor, he was shocked not only at how little flexibility she’d lost but that the fall had done so little damage in the first place.
Why We Fall
And therein lies the point. Falls kill. They can be horrifically unforgiving. All too often, they happen because we’re trying to do something at the end of a ladder that we shouldn’t, or we have a slightly too-high opinion of our abilities that might be a tad too dated.
Or it’s just a touch of snow or ice in the wrong place on the sidewalk. Or for that matter, it’s a disease or a combination of prescription or OTC drugs we’re taking, which is a whole other matter entirely.
We all fall. I do it spectacularly, but I ask for it because of the sports I do. At 65, horse back riding is the worst offender when it comes to head injuries. Still I am off to ride for three hours this afternoon. With a helmet, of course.
But I also take other tumbles. What keeps me in the game is the same thing that Marge does: a combination of yoga, balance work, weights and aerobic activity.
Marge didn’t get there overnight. Nobody does. We begin where we are with gentility and a sense of humor. We ask permission and achieve small gains over time.
The body confidence that we can gather with those small gains makes all the difference when it comes to our personal freedom and our ability to enjoy life.
And to survive falls, which are inevitable for all of us at one time or another.
Techniques for Fall Prevention
Here’s the RX for fall prevention, and if you do fall, for the ability to get right back up again:
- Start a gentle program (such as yoga).
- Work on your strength and your flexibility. Find a program or class you love and will commit to do regularly.
- Be patient with your body, especially if it’s been a while. Have a good chuckle at yourself and give yourself permission to be imperfect.
- Celebrate the small gains. Who knows? That turn around the block may turn into a 10k race before you know it. When we begin a new effort, we have no idea where it may lead.
- Get support by involving friends who will not only encourage you but support you along the way. Laughter goes a long way towards encouraging each other to keep moving.
What are you doing to be in your best shape for life? Have you got a powerful recovery story to share? What suggestions might you have for others who fear falling, but could use encouragement? Please share in the comments below!