Especially if you’re a senior, but really for anyone, a fall can sometimes bring serious consequences like a broken bone. So it makes good sense to pay attention to improving your balance. A combination of muscle strength, the senses and the ability to react quickly to sudden information determines your sense of balance.
When you were young you probably did physical activities that built up your muscle strength and kept your balance keen. As the years go by, you may have tended to become more sedentary. This would result in the loss of muscle mass and, therefore, muscle strength. These bear directly on the loss or at least the reduction in your sense of balance.
Many older people experience a loss in overall muscle strength and some diminution in vision and hearing as well as in depth perception and peripheral vision. In addition, aging lessens the ability to adjust quickly to changes in light or glare. Then, too, some illnesses affect balance as do certain medications. Any and all of these natural occurrences can impair your ability, as the years add up, to keep your balance.
But there is much you can do to help your situation. Above all, remain physically active, which will help to keep your muscles strong. Over and again, clinical studies show that at any age a person can improve muscle strength even after having been sedentary for a long time. Muscle strength can help you catch yourself to prevent a fall. Yet if a fall occurs your muscle bulk can cushion the impact and even prevent a broken bone.
Senior centers, organizations like the YMCA and clubs like Sims offer both instruction and the opportunity to exercise properly on both land and in the water. Several common sense precautions can help you to prevent a fall. These include:
- wearing non-slip footwear, including the backless style slippers;
- watching out for wet floors;
- clearing clutter that can cause you to trip;
- avoiding small carpets that lack non-slip backings;
- installing grab bars in your bathroom;
- using a chair or four-legged stool in the shower if you get dizzy while you stand;
- using a nightlight or a flashlight when you get up in the middle of the night, and wearing your glasses when you do so;
- talking with your physician about your dizziness, especially if it is a side effect to a medication;
- lighting your home and having switches at hand at the entrance to each room;
- using a cane, particularly when you face slippery or uneven surfaces;
- giving yourself a few seconds to let any dizziness pass before you walk, after you stand up;
- placing your feet carefully and firmly before you stand up, and placing your heel down first, not your forefoot, when you walk.
Some easy-to-do exercises can help you improve your sense of balance. For example, with your shoes on, stand on a hard floor, hold onto chairs placed on either side of you and sway side to side and front to back, always keeping your feet firmly on the floor. Also, shifting your weight to one foot, lift the other foot off the floor slightly. Take care to avoid locking the knee of your supporting leg. Then try lifting one hand off a chair.
After you are balanced, lift the other hand and stay this way for 20 seconds. Then do the same thing with the other leg. You can make this exercise more challenging by removing your shoes, crossing your arms on your chest, closing your eyes or standing on an unstable surface such as a cushioned, carpeted floor, a foam pad or a pillow.
You can find life’s daily activities easier to do and you can free yourself of some worry and troubles, and still get around more safely, with sensible plans and actions such as these. Of course, it helps to know that our bodies gradually change as we age and that you can cope with this natural occurrence.