Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians, causing 85% of seniors’ injury-related hospitalizations and 95% of all hip fractures, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Falls are experienced by more than one-third of adults 65 and older, says the Canadian Patient Safety Institute.
Fortunately, many falls can be prevented by understanding what causes them and taking appropriate steps to protect yourself.
Here are some practical ways to stay safe on your feet and reduce the risk of falling:
1. Improve balance. Practicing tai chi can reduce the incidence of injury-related falls in older adults by 50%, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Balance training of any kind, including walking (a simple form of balance training), helps you stay stable and reduces your risk of falling, says Toronto’s Sinai Health System.
2. Strengthen your bones. Getting adequate calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones healthy and strong with aging, according to Sinai Health System. Talk to your doctor to be sure you are getting enough of both.
3. Wear safe, sensible shoes. Walking in properly fitting and sturdy low-heeled shoes, with non-skid soles, is more secure than in floppy slippers, shoes with slick soles, or stocking feet.
4. Check your vision and hearing annually. If you have difficulty seeing and hearing, you may not be able to avoid objects that could make you lose your balance, advises Alberta Health Services.
5. Use appropriate mobility aids. Some older adults with balance problems risk falls by choosing not to use canes, walkers or other mobility aids. If you have concerns about balance, talk to your doctor, a physical therapist or occupational therapist. The right mobility aid for the right person, used correctly, can dramatically improve independence and safety, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
6. Prevent outdoor slips and falls. Avoid walking in icy conditions, if possible. When navigating areas where snow or ice removal is incomplete, walk slowly, take small steps, keep both hands free for balance and use handrails where you can.
7. Stay safe while bathing. Install grab handles and non-skid mats in the tub and shower, and use a shower chair or bath bench, advises HealthLinkBC.
8. Use medication wisely. Ask your doctor to review your medications for side effects or interactions that can affect balance, or cause dizziness or drowsiness, which can increase your risk of falling, says Mayo Clinic. Adjusting your medications, if needed, could help reduce the risk.