Preventing falls: Action items for anyone at any age

Preventing Falls

To prevent harmful falls and sudden slips, good habits are essential and regular exercise can be a lifesaver. Two-thirds of the country is facing more than the usual snow and ice, which makes walking treacherous.

Tips for remaining upright

  1. Always wear sturdy, well-fitting shoes or boots. Step-in boots and slide-in shoes look appealing but don't provide adequate support.
  2. Don't hunker down in the cold, exercise! Aerobics in the pool is a good way to keep moving and keep blood circulating in frigid winter months. Most YMCAs and community pools offer programs geared for people who don't move the way they used to. Tai-chi is also considered beneficial to maintaining good balance.
  3. Yoga comes in many forms and is helpful to people with arthritis or other ailments that cause stiffness, such as Parkinson's disease. Chair yoga is designed for older men and women. The stretches that are so helpful to strengthening backs and loosening stiff necks can be done without ever actually lying down on a yoga mat.

"Chair yoga builds bone density, strengthens your ankles, and helps people identify correct placement of their feet while walking," says yoga instructor Pam MacFarlane, who is about to turn 60 herself and teaches a class comprising men and women from their 50s up to age 86. "Plus yoga increases lung capacity by practicing deep breathing."

If mobility is such a problem that getting to a gym, senior center, or community exercise program is not possible, MacFarlane recommends Peggy Cappy's DVDs: "Peggy has an extensive national following and is known for her very loving ways."

Cappy's Yoga for the Rest of Us has been broadcast on PBS and American Public television. Her latest DVD "Easy Yoga for Arthritis" is available at http://www.peggycappy.com.

"It's amazing how good of a workout you can get even in a chair," says MacFarlane.

It's important to remind seniors that making a steady effort to increase overall strength is key to keeping them upright. And even those who aren't prone to exercise are more receptive if they understand it can prevent a fall and the broken bones that result.