“She fell and broke her hip, and was never the same after that.”
Bet you dimes to doughnuts you can fill in a name and face for that sentence above.
Falls are such a common problem as we age that they can start to seem inevitable. In fact, one out of four Americans 65 or older takes a tumble every year. And, according to the Council on Aging, every 11 seconds a senior is being rushed to the ER for treatment for a fall.
When you’re a kid a broken bone is something you can bounce back from easily. But those of us that are longer in the tooth have a lot to fear from falling. Every 19 minutes an older adult dies from complications from a fall, and falling is linked to 9,500 deaths of older Americans each year.
But a group of Australian researchers say they know what’s contributing to many of those falls. And the solution to avoiding them is astonishingly simple.
Change your glasses.
Single-lens glasses could keep you on your feet
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, focused on a group of seniors who were at high risk for falling either because they were 80+, or they were 65+ with a history of falls. All of the volunteers used multifocal glasses at least three times a week when walking outside, and didn’t use single lens distance glasses.
About half of the group was given a pair of single-lens glasses to wear when they were outside, or in an unfamiliar setting.
Both groups were then monitored for 13 months. During that time total falls dropped a healthy eight percent in the single-lens group. But even more exciting was that those seniors in the single-lens group who were active—going outdoors on a regular basis—saw their total falls plummet by 40 percent!
And the tumbles they did take were far less harmful.
Multifocal glasses are great for activities like driving, reading or cooking. But they have optical defects that can cause you to feel off balance when walking or moving around in an unfamiliar place causing you to fall. So it’s better to switch to a single-lens pair for outdoor activities.
5 more stay steady on your feet tips
A few other simple changes can help slash your risk for falling.
1. Keep moving:
Staying physically active could keep you steady on your feet by helping to build both muscle and coordination. Swimming, water walking or Tai Chi are all excellent choices. Or consider giving our Better Balance Workout or Fit & Flexible Chair Workout a try.
2. Switch shoes:
What you wear on your feet can make a big difference when it comes to staying on them. Ditch the heels, loose fitting shoes or slippers and anything that has a slick sole. Switch to sturdy, snug-fitting shoes with non-slip soles instead.
3. Let there be light:
A dim or dark home can send your risk for falls soaring, especially when you’re a senior. Make sure all your rooms are well lit. Consider adding light switch covers that light up so they are easy to find in the dark. And be sure to add nightlights in hallways, on stairs and in the bathroom to prevent nighttime tumbles.
4. Do a med check:
Make a list of all of your current medications and then make an appointment with your doctor to do a medication check. Go over each of your prescriptions with him to find out which ones could cause dizziness or make you less steady on your feet. Discuss weaning off of any meds you might not need any more or switching to drugs that are less likely to increase your fall risk.
5. Fall proof your home:
Our homes are full of hidden fall hazards. Take a critical look around your living space and remove any extension cords, phone cords, newspapers, books or boxes that have piled up. Relocate any furniture that stands in the way of walking such as coffee tables or plant stands. Get rid of small area rugs or make them secure by adding tacks or strong rug tape. And add nonslip matts to your tubs, showers and bathroom floors.
And if you do happen to still take a tumble push yourself to get up and moving again as soon as possible. (With assistance, and your doc’s okay, of course!) Because, believe it or not, your muscle cells start to break down within a half hour to an hour of you being immobile. And dehydration, pressure sores, hyperthermia and pneumonia are all real possibilities.
They say failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up. I say success is avoiding that fall in the first place. Talk with your eye doctor today about getting a pair of single focal lenses, and follow our five stay steady on your feet tips, to help slash your risk for falling.