Unintentional falls among people 65 and older cause more than 18,000 deaths a year in the United States. What many of the elderly don’t know is that balance is something that can be improved.
That feeling of being off balance is a growing concern for the elderly. Hugh Marshall suffered a few spills playing tennis, so he came to a screening to get it checked out.
“Balance is pretty important in tennis. You kind of lose it and it’s not nice,” says Marshall.
Unlike many effects of aging, balance is something that can be improved.
“Strengthening is probably the most important area that we all can benefit from, especially as we get older in the 60s and 70s. So many people lose strength to the point where they can’t stand up without struggling. That does not preclude them from making tremendous amount of progress,” says Lee Memorial Health System physical therapist Nathalie Grondin.
So comprehensive balance screenings like this one are becoming more common as an entry point to therapy.
“It’s very quick and people learn a lot just in a very short period of time and they say ‘oh that was helpful, I didn’t realize I had so many problems’ or ‘I’m doing better than I thought,’” says Grondin.
There is strong evidence that strength and balance training works. Studies show it reduces the rate of falls by 50 percent. Even when there is a fall, the experience helps people get back on their feet.
“We do suggest if you were to fall, this is how you should fall. If you have fallen, how to check for injuries, how to call for help, how to get up from the floor. We do actually practice that. We hope that they never have to use it but it builds their confidence,” says Grondin.
Confidence is something lacking in the ‘unstable’ that limit their activities to avoid injury. As for Marshall, he learned a few simple tips to keep him upright and moving.
“I’m kind of glad I came over today,” says Marshall.