Falling is not a good move!

Seniors of Gilpin County – Oldies but Goodies

By Sharon Perea

Falling in love is not considered harmful to your health. However, falling down stairs or on the ice may cripple you for life or result in your death. The major accidental killer of older adults is falling down. One out of three seniors over 65 years old will become a victim. If you tripped and are thrown off balance, could you regain your balance without falling? Any object that makes an initial misstep more likely or interferes with your ability to self-correct increases your risk of falling. Age is not on our side!

Physical Causes

A doctor from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City lists in part, these physical factors as hidden causes of falling.

–Muscle weakness: Inactivity is a very common cause of falls. To prevent falling when stumbling, we need strength and coordinated actions in our feet, ankles, knees and hips. As we age we lose muscle strength. Research suggests older people with a history of falls typically have less than half the ankle strength of others. Exercise helps slow the loss of muscle mass and greatly improves balance.

–Impaired nerve function: Peripheral neuropathy. Lack of feeling due to blunted nerve function in the feet can be caused by diabetes, vitamin B-12 deficiency, or low thyroid levels. This nervous system plays a part in sensing loss of balance early and guides the self-correction process.

–Thinning bones: As bone mass declines with age, osteoporosis can develop. Bones are liable to fracture – causing a fall rather than resulting from it. This happens as bones lose density, so the body’s center of gravity shifts forward, causing a person to lean progressively forward. Balance is more precarious, so a slip is more likely to become a fall.

–Low vitamin D levels: Researchers theorize that vitamin D may have an effect on muscle that helps reduce falls. Vitamin D deficiency is more common than previously believed.

Environmental Challenges

  In Gilpin County we are faced with natural obstacles such as unpaved, rocky, sloping terrain. Winters complicate movement with the snow, icy spots, and sand on sidewalks. Even in our homes we need to be aware of falling.

Home Safety Hints

The longer we live in our home the more we get use to avoiding certain objects in our way or skip turning the light on to enter a dark room. This can become a hazard for us as we age. Forgetting one time that we left something on the floor can be our “downfall.”

–Lighting: Have light switches installed at bottom and top of stairs, use a night light on between bathroom and bedroom, and keep flashlights on all levels of your home.

–Floors: Repair loose boards on wooden floors, loose tiles, or loose rugs on slippery floors. Remove throw rugs, runners, and small objects. Keep walkways clear of furniture, papers, electrical and phone cords, oxygen tubes and boxes. Use bright colored tape to identify obstacles.

–Bathroom: Use only non-skid bathmats and install grab bars next to and inside the tub/shower. An elevated toilet seat with handles is easier and safer to get up and down.

–Bedroom: An elevated bed surface is easier to get up and down from and a bed board increases firmness, making transfer safer.

–Furniture: Avoid sitting on low surfaces. It is easier to get up from chairs with arm rests. Remove wheels from furniture and do not use furniture for support when walking.

–Stairs: Always use railings – one on each side is known to further reduce chance of falling. Mark top and bottom of steps with florescent tape and don’t forget to turn on the light!

–Storage and Step Stools: Store frequently used items within easy reach. If need to use step stool make sure it is study and high enough for job. Fully extend it on flat, firm, uncluttered spot.

–Smoke Detectors: Smoke detectors should be tested monthly and batteries replaces twice a year, during day light savings time.

Medic Alert Service

If you live alone, a medical alert service is vital in case you fall or need assistance. Gilpin seniors are fortunate to have this service available and free through the Gilpin Ambulance Authority. You press a button and instantly you have a dispatch person talking to you. Call for information at 303-582-5499.

The Rest is Up to You

We all want to live in our own home as long as possible. Besides making your home environment safer, the best personal defense to avoid falling is to keep active and exercise. We have fabulous equipment and classes available at our Gilpin Community Center. Many seniors are seeing great improvements in their strength and flexibility in the free Senior Sit and Fit Class – come join us!

A Thought to Ponder

No matter how old you are, you’re younger than you’ll ever be again!

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