Falls Aren’t a Fact of Life: How to Prevent Falls, Remain Active, and Stay Healthy and Happy

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Here’s one of the most common myths about aging:

Falling is an inevitable part of getting older.

It’s true that older people are at higher risk of falling. And when they do fall, the consequences can be serious. According to the National Council on Aging, “Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors' safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.”

Marcela Pouliot, a physical therapist at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, was quoted in a recent piece in the MV Times: “A significant percentage of seniors have balance issues. Falling is such a prevalent issue, and it can have irreversible implications, particularly for seniors.”

It’s no wonder that older adults worry about falling, and restrict their activities and social engagements as a result. Again, according to the National Council on Aging, this self-limiting behavior “can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.”

But the truth is, most falls are entirely preventable, and seniors don’t have to stop exercising or become inactive to avoid falls. The first step is to ask a few questions to assess your risk factors:

  • Do I have trouble walking and looking around at the same time?

  • Do I rely on a wall or a chair to steady myself? 

  • Is it challenging to walk on grass or gravel? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, tell your primary care provider. No matter where you receive care, Martha’s Vineyard has a robust network of providers and resources to help prevent falls and to mitigate their impacts.

The Martha’s Vineyard Partnership for Health, a program of Island Health Care, offers Matter of Balance, a free 8-week program that explores fear of falling and helps participants overcome fears that keep them less active while building confidence in mild exercise and physical activity.

Participants will learn to view falls as controllable, set goals for increasing activity, make changes to reduce fall risks at home, exercise to increase strength and balance. It’s a great resource for anyone concerned about falls; anyone interested in improving balance, flexibility and strength; anyone who has fallen in the past; and/or anyone who has restricted activities because of falling concerns.

If you’re interested in participating in Matter of Balance, fill out this short form.

For more information about how to prevent falls, you can download the National Council on Aging’s Fall Prevention Fact Sheet here.

Sam Mitchellfalls, aging