It’s clear that you are enjoying your retirement when you are freely pursuing the activities you love; playing with the grandkids, golf, gardening or hiking, to name a few. When a fear of falling creeps into your day-to-day life, when you begin restricting your activities to avoid the risk of falling, or if you have experienced a fall in the past, it may be time to seek help from a medical professional.
According to the Arizona Falls Prevention Coalition, in 2014, unintentional falls were the leading cause of injury-related mortality among Arizona residents aged 65 years and older. Statistics show the rate of fall-related injury and death is even higher in Northern Arizona, where we deal with a greater number of specific risk factors such as freezing weather accompanied by icy streets and sidewalks, hills, unpaved streets and trails, and older homes with wood floors and staircases. Even the actual activities we want to enjoy in retirement can increase one’s risk for a fall.
While the numbers indicate that there is a reason to be concerned, there are many simple things you can do to decrease your risk of an unexpected fall. Having your balance tested by a specialist and then working with them on an individually designed exercise plan is a good way to begin.
Rich Tenney, Senior Physical Therapist and a member of YRMC’s Physical Rehabilitation Team, emphasizes the importance of personalized care. “When someone comes in for an assessment at YRMC, the first thing we do is visit with them and get a history of how they feel about their balance,” states Tenney. “That’s really important for the specialist to know so we can tailor their treatment.”
A specialist will conduct assessments of the three important systems that affect balance:
- Vestibular balance – ear balance
- Sensation balance – joints and muscles
The results of the testing will indicate if there are any particular deficits or weaknesses in one or more of these areas. This information, combined with your personal goals, will help you and your specialist create a customized treatment plan. Objective measures are put in place to track progress and improvement.
Tenney states that one of the most important goals is increased confidence. When the patient’s risk of falling is in a normal range, they will feel secure enough to continue pursuing the activities they enjoy.
“Our bodies are absolutely amazing, no matter what the age is. And when it comes to balance, you can change that. You can improve that,” says Tenney. “You just need the right direction and the right knowledge. That’s what a specialist can offer, so that you can overcome those fears of falling and be able to live that life you want, at any age.”