Improving Balance Can Save Seniors’ Lives

Improving Balance Can Save Seniors’ Lives

One slip can break a hip! Broken hips or hip fractures are a common fear among seniors, along with the fear of falling – probably because more than 90 percent of hip fractures occur as a result of falls, with most of these fractures occurring in persons more than 70 years of age.

Additionally, too often a hip fracture leads to life and death types of complications. Though most falls are preventable, too few people are educated on preventing the risks of falling. Another discouraging fact is that while balance problems often contribute greatly to falls, balance issues are not commonly treated or addressed.

As aging takes its toll, good balance can be a lifesaver — literally. Compared with national data – ElderNav clients have 80% fewer falls. For this reason, SeniorBridge is educating seniors nationwide on simple exercises to improve their balance for fall prevention. A few minutes a day spent on improving one’s balance can mean the difference between potentially suffering a crippling injury from a fall or remaining safe.

There are a number of exercises that can help with improving balance. Before beginning a new exercise program, however, it is important to first share the exercise regiment with one’s doctor and have a complete physical, including a review of medications, a musculoskeletal check for any abnormalities and blood tests to determine cholesterol and glucose levels. Additionally, any exercise program should build gradually to avoid injuries.

Here are a few specific exercises for improving balance (and please note to always keep the eyes open and never closed while performing standing, stretch and relaxation activities):

  • Knee Lifts: Attempt to lift the knee as high as the hip using a secure object to assist in maintaining balance in the beginning. As strength increases, decrease the tendency to lean on a support, and try holding the leg up for 3 seconds or longer.

  • Point and Flex: While sitting, point toes and then flex them. Repeat with both feet.

  • Toe Tapping: While sitting, tap toes. Repeat with both feet.

  • Sit-to-Stand: When necessary, use a chair for support when standing and again when returning to a sitting position. Try to gradually decrease use of the arms as the legs get stronger.

  • Calf Muscle Strengthener: While holding onto a wall, chair or the kitchen sink, repeatedly raise up and down on tiptoes. As strength improves, go higher up on toes and eventually try it on one foot at a time.

  • Shin Muscle Strengthener: Lean back against a wall with heels placed seven to eight inches away from the wall. Lift the toes of both feet off the ground as high as possible.

  • One-legged Stand: Hold onto a secure object during balance training, such as a sturdy chair. Lift one leg off the ground and try to maintain balance on the standing leg.

  • Hip/Thigh Muscle Strengthener: Take extra trips up and down the stairs. Hold onto the banister with one hand and press the other hand against the wall for safety. If wary of stairs, strengthen the same muscles by getting up out of a chair repeatedly. Grip the arms of the chair if needed, but more benefit will be gained from the exercise if hands are not used to push.

People of all ages can take preventative measures to reduce falls, which will eventually result in a safer and better quality of life. ElderNav not only offers care for individuals who have suffered from a fall, but also performs a complete analysis of one’s home to suggest improvements for preventing a fall. We urge the public to become educated about ways to prevent a fall, and offer ourselves as a helpful resource for all who wish to learn more about methods for prevention.

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