Fall Prevention 101: Helping Seniors Safely Age in Place
Most Baby Boomers want to age in place, according to the AARP. Almost 90 percent of seniors prefer the comfort of their own homes over moving in with relatives or going to an assisted living facility. But in order to make aging in place a reality for yourself or a loved one, safety considerations should be a top priority.
Seniors can stay in their homes longer and improve their quality of life through home modifications, lifestyle adjustments, and proactive fall prevention. The CDC reports that falls increase the chances of future injuries, disabilities, and even death.
If you’re unsure where to start, here are some tips to help you safely age in place:
- Although exercise might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of retirement, daily physical activity is essential at any age. Especially for seniors, exercise can be a way to improve balance and help prevent falling. The Mayo Clinic recommends tai chi, single-leg balances, and other gentle movement exercises for seniors who are interested in preventing or reducing falls.
- Yoga — specifically, a type of yoga called Iyengar Yoga — has been shown to reduce falls among seniors. Even better: seniors who engaged in Iyengar Yoga noticed results after just nine weeks of practice. Seniors who are interested in trying yoga can start with a guided class at a local yoga studio. And many studios even have classes designed specifically for seniors. If it’s not possible to attend a local class, search the internet for “yoga for seniors” to watch free, online video tutorials and follow along at home.
- Quitting smoking. Smoking harms circulation and contributes to osteoporosis, which makes bones weaker and less able to weather a fall. That’s why the National Institute on Aging recommends seniors quit smoking, whether they’re occasional smokers or “smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years.”
Seniors can find ways to incorporate physical activity by exercising at home, visiting a favorite park, or even through a gym membership. Plus, Medicare Advantage subscribers are usually eligible for Silver Sneakers, which provides access to 13,000 participating fitness centers nationwide. Review your coverage to see what’s provided, and always be sure to consult with your doctor before starting any sort of exercise program.
Home modifications such as bathroom remodels can also help reduce falls. Nearly 80 percent of home falls happen in the bathroom. People of any age can slip and fall, whether getting out of the shower or using the toilet, but seniors are most susceptible. Luckily, inexpensive modifications can help. Grab bars make it easier for seniors to maintain balance, and you can refinish a bathtub or add new floor tile to make surfaces less slick. Shower chairs can provide added safety and support.
Motorized shades are another home modification to consider. They help by automatically opening and closing at specified times of the day. Motorized shades help seniors wake up naturally, and assist with opening windows that are otherwise hard to reach. Some shades have voice control, and companies like Beyond Shades will send a shades automation specialist to a senior’s home to help them set everything up. By making their lives easier, motorized shades help reduce falls while improving quality of life, especially for seniors with limited mobility.
Growing older brings a lot of concerns, and safety is at the top of the list. There’s a lot to think about when it comes to aging in place safely, especially if you plan to stay at home in your Golden Years. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed as you implement the changes listed in this article, remember to pause and take a deep breath. You don’t have to make every single change right this second. Instead, divide your to-do list into tasks and work on one thing at a time. Seniors can also ask family, friends, and loved ones to help with specific tasks as needed. By taking these safety precautions now, you’ll be able to enjoy living at home for years to come.