When it comes to remaining independent and physically active in older age, fall and injury prevention rises as a top priority for most seniors and caregivers, especially among post-menopausal women who may be more susceptible to fractures. Falls are the leading cause of injuries among older Americans and nearly 22,000 die each year from injuries related to falls.
Fear of falling can cause seniors to avoid activities they once enjoyed and without regular exercise, older adults can become sedentary and frail. If seniors are afraid of falling, they may withdraw socially and risk losing their ability to care for themselves and live independently, all leading to a poorer quality of life.
Courses to tackle fear of falling among elderly adults are popping up across the Netherlands where, like in North America, a rapidly aging population is looking for tools to help them age successfully. Not only are seniors instructed how to navigate various terrains in a safe environment, they learn how to fall correctly and a better way to stand up and sit down, reducing the risk for injury.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, more than 18 per cent of the Dutch population is over the age of 65 and falls account for a significant number of deaths among seniors. Researchers believe that a recent sharp rise in fall fatalities among seniors is due in part to the rapidly increasing number of seniors in the population as well as medications older adults may take that can cause dizziness and a tendency for inactivity in older age.
By learning how to better navigate uneven sidewalks or stairs, and learning the correct way to fall, seniors can overcome their fear of falling and continue to stay active in older age.
How to Fall Correctly
- Don’t fight the fall or try to stop yourself with outstretched arms
- Roll sideways into the fall rounding your body and distributing weight (martial arts roll)
- Try to relax and not stiffen up
According to a study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, among various fall strategies, martial arts rolling was the only method that significantly decreased hip impact force (by 25 per cent )and when combined with relaxed muscle reaction, reduced the impact angle of the trunk of the body by 60 per cent. In addition to practicing safe falling techniques, learning better ways to sit and stand and how to balance on difficult terrain, elderly adults can also use hip protecter garments for added confidence and security.