When I was in my late 40’s, I took a tumble off the porch steps. I was carrying a box and trying not to step on my little white dog. That fall severely sprang both of my ankles. The pain was excruciating! It took close to a month for me to recover. Even after I was healed, I was afraid of going down any stairs.
When an older adult has experienced a fall, the affects can be much more dramatic. The time it takes to heal is longer, and the mental effects can be worse than the physical ones. Some elders retreat to their homes, giving up on exercise of any kind. Many times, they experience deep depression that comes from isolation. The effects of isolation can literally be deadly.
Getting them active and mobile is perhaps the biggest obstacle to their recovery. If you or a loved one has experienced a fall, you must find a way to move that body and regain your normal life. Getting fit can prevent you from falling. With stronger muscles and better balance, you may even be able to catch yourself before you take a tumble. So, what kind of exercises might you start with to increase your strength and mobility?
For many older adults, water exercises work the best. Even those with severe arthritis can enjoy a work out in the water. I met Joy O’Dell while working on an article for a local paper. She began teaching water aerobics at in her late 60’s and is certified by the Arthritic Foundation to instruct older adults.
“This just became a passion for me,” said O’Dell. “This exercise helps people live longer and better. Our routine works every joint in the body. I’ve had some students start classes in a wheelchair and now walk by themselves. It will make anyone more flexible and increase muscle strength. With arthritis, if you don’t use it, you will lose it! For one hour, they forget they have arthritis. In the water, there is no weight on the joints. We listen to the music, laugh and have a good time.”
Those emotional benefits are especially important for those suffering from depression and isolation. Experts are now finding that our emotional health greatly affects our physical. Socializing and exercising can make a huge difference in our lives, counteracting the symptoms of a fall, and may even prevent us from getting dementia.
Other beneficial exercises can also be very effective in a fall recovery. Chair exercises get the older adult moving, in the safety of a chair. It’s often enough to get them walking again and helps them regain their self-confidence. Tai Chi is perfect for someone recovering from a fall. The slow, steady movements strengthen the core muscles without any impact to the joints and healing bones. Most senior centers offer all of these classes, and are probably right in your own neighborhood. So, if your older loved one has experienced a fall, keep a close eye on them. Be watching for signs of isolation, and make sure they get moving as soon as possible.
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About The Author: Karen Everett Watson is a Gerontologist and has over 10 years experience as a Journalist. Karen has spent 4 years in the senior community interviewing retirement community residents.