One of the biggest challenges facing our aging population is preventing catastrophic falls. As you have probably heard, or even witnessed in your own family, people are living longer than ever. Advances in pharmaceuticals are allowing people to treat and live with the symptoms of chronic diseases. Ultimately, these new medical treatments are prolonging lives, but at the expense of quality of life, especially when it comes to maintaining mobility and independence.
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While it is certainly good news that Americans are living well into their 80s and 90s and beyond, the next challenge is to ensure that those years are full of vitality. This can be a surprisingly tall order when you take a look at the statistics and realize just how challenging it is for seniors to safely maintain their mobility.
Falls are the number one cause for hospital visits for those 65 and over. Approximately 33% of seniors will experience one fall that results in serious injury. That number is even more disheartening when you consider that the biggest predicting factor of suffering a fall is having previously fallen. Once you have taken one spill, you are more likely to fall again and your risk of suffering debilitating injuries only goes up.
The most common juries for seniors who fall include: hip, arm, and leg fractures. This means that most falls don’t result in something minor like a broken toe, but more often than not, cause serious complications that severely limit mobility and that is where the real trouble starts.
Even for healthy adult in their 30s, a couple weeks of bed rest while recuperating from an injury can cause a reduction in muscle mass, which then leads to decreased strength, balance, and stability. By the time you reach 65 years old, this process of deconditioning is significantly accelerated by age.
While young adults will lose an average 1% of their muscles mass for every day on bed rest, a senior will lose up to 5% per day. That statistic is even more staggering considering the fact that the average 75 year old has a body composition that consists of 15% muscle. The consequences of a fall related injury can be swift and almost impossible to completely recover from.
•25% of elderly people who fracture their hip die within 6 months of the initial injury.
•Over 50% of seniors who survive a fracture will spend at least a year in a nursing home recovering.
•Even those who experience a significant recovery will have a 10-15% decrease in overall life expectancy.
As thousands of Baby Boomers reach retirement every day and America’s population of people over 65 continues to grow, it is essential that our approach to aging goes beyond simply living longer and incorporates strategies that will help seniors live better.
Preventing falls among seniors requires a two prong approach that involves reducing potential hazards from living spaces and increasing balance and stability through regular exercise and weight training. Making a home senior friendly can be as simply as removing rugs, installing inexpensive threshold ramps
, and taking advantage of other affordable mobility and accessibility equipment like lift chairs
and stair lifts
In addition, it is important actively work to maintain muscle mass and improve balance and stability. All of these things will naturally deteriorate with age, but you can slow the aging process by engaging in regular, targeted physical activity. Yoga and Tai Chi have both been proven to be highly effective, low impact forms of exercise that are well suited to seniors.
To learn more about how you can prevent falls and improve your independence and mobility, call AmeriGlide
today and speak with one of our experts.