The Baby Boomer generation is living longer than previous generations and according to the latest data released from the Administration on Aging, nearly 30% of older adults live alone. While many elders take pride in their continued independence, they may be more prone to suffering injuries while living alone. Elders are at a greater risk of being injured in an accident in the home involving a kitchen fire, accidental poisoning, slip and trips, and being struck by fallen objects that are out of reach.
Out of all of the accidents that occur in the home, falls are the most common and have some of the most long lasting effects.
Falls in the Home
Each year, 1 in 3 elderly individuals, 65 years or older, fall and 2.5 million older individuals are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. Falls account for 95% of all hip fractures and are the common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in older adults. Although many falls do not result in an injury, 1 out of 5 falls results in a serious injury, such as a fracture or TBI. As a result to falling in the home and being injured, many elders may be unable to call for help right away, fail to report their accident, or delay treatment. Additionally, once an elderly individual has fallen in his or her home, they may become more fearful of falling again (subsequent falls are common) and they may be afraid to go out and about.
Reasons Behind Falls
A fall in the home can happen for any number of reasons, some common risk factors include lower body weakness, Vitamin D deficiency, and the use of medications. Additionally, as an individual ages, it’s natural for the body to become weaker and issues with vision,mobility and balance, which can also lead to falls. Some other contributing factors leading to falls in the home include poor footwear, uneven floors or steps, tripping hazards like rugs or clutter, and ice or uneven pavement on sidewalks, stairs, or driveways outside of the home.
Reducing and Preventing Falls
When an elderly individual falls in his or her home, his or her independence may come to an end, requiring in home help or even moving to a nursing home facility. While a fall can happen when an individual is being careful, prevention can reduce the chances of falling. Here are some ways to decrease fall prevention in the home so elders can extend their independent living:
- Get a Checkup: Since issues like poor vision, medications, and even a Vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of falls, it’s a good idea to have a check up and talk with your doctor about any medications you take to see if they can affect balance or increase dizziness.
- Stay in Shape: Getting exercise on a regular basis can help to keep your body more mobile and stronger. Consider taking a gentle yoga class to work on your balance and lower body strength.
- Improvements in the Home: Don’t wait until you fall to fall proof your home. Take a look at the lighting. Is it too low? Install handrails, remove tripping hazards, fix areas that are likely to increase your risk of falling.
- Ask for Help: Just because you live alone, it doesn’t mean that you have to do everything by yourself. Do you struggle with yard work, house maintenance, or shoveling snow? Ask someone to give you a hand.
What can you do to improve your mood, manage stress, remain cognitively agile, and improve your overall health? No matter what age you are, physical activity is crucial for your mental and physical wellbeing. If you’re hoping to have more energy even as you get older, exercise is a great way to do it. It has the ability to keep you living independently longer, and your risk of disease decreases. So as a senior, what are some good ways to stay active, and how can you do it safely? Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Start Slow & Take It Easy
If it’s been a while since you’ve been physically active, make sure you start slowly. The goal is to stay as healthy as possible. You’ll really want to ease yourself into exercise so you don’t sustain any kind of injury whatsoever. Don’t push yourself too hard – listen to what your body is telling you. Work your way up in intervals of maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Give yourself time and space to breathe.
- Make It a Priority
It’s important to understand that in order to really maximize the benefits of being active, it should be done on a regular basis. Try to develop of a routine for yourself. Having a somewhat steady routine in general can also help boost your mood. It might be easiest to try exercising first thing in the morning. Motivate yourself to get going – that way you can treat yourself by relaxing later in the day.
- Get Social
Invite a couple of friends to get active with you! Use this as a time where you can socialize and catch up with everyone while also doing something great for your health. The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more you’ll want to do it!
- Make It Fun – Do What Works for You
What do you enjoy? You might try walking, gardening, yoga, or water aerobics. This is a great opportunity for you to explore some things you may have never tried before. Get creative, and make your daily exercise something that you have fun doing!
Switch it up occasionally as well. On nice days you can go for brisk walks with friends or put a pair of headphones in with your favorite music while you work in the yard. Walking is also great because you can do it indoors if the weather isn’t great. Water aerobics, swimming and yoga can also be done indoors, so you can get yearlong enjoyment out of them.
Consider different activities that can help improve your endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. When you do lots of different activities, you reap the benefits of many different types of exercises.
- Listen to Your Doctor
Always consult with you doctor before trying anything new. It’s so important that he or she is up to date on what you’re doing. If you’re at risk for heart disease or have any health concerns whatsoever, it’s especially important you talk with your doctor beforehand. Safety is the number one priority! Listen to your doctor, listen to your body and have fun staying active!
Whatever your age, it’s never too late to get active. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), inactivity increases with age and the loss of strength and stamina, often attributed to aging, is partly due to reduced activity. The CDC reports that by age 75, about 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women engage in no physical activity.
There are numerous benefits to becoming physically active as a senior of any age. Not only does exercise help maintain the ability to live independently and reduce the risk of falling, but it also reduces the risk of dying from heart diseases and certain cancers. Exercise also helps control swelling and pain associated with arthritis. While exercise can do wonders for physical health, it can also improve and maintain mental health.
Tips For Staying Safe During Physical Activity
Whether you are already an active senior or wish to become more physically active, your safety is important. Here are some tips to staying safe while staying active:
- Take it Slow: If you’re interested in increasing your level of activity (or you want to make significant changes in your current routine), but haven’t been active in awhile, it’s important to start out slow. By starting out slowly, you’re less likely to sustain an injury or overdue it right away. Experts recommend starting with short intervals, 5 to 10 minutes, of moderate activity and slowly build up.
- Always Consult With Your Doctor: Every workout program comes with a warning to speak with a medical professional before starting the program. The warning is not supposed to be viewed as a mere suggestion, but rather to be taken seriously. If you are at high risk for heart disease, are diabetic, obese, smoke, or have any other health concerns, you should always check first with your doctor before exercises. Other reasons to check first include: new or undiagnosed symptoms, chest pain, or heart beat irregularities.
- Choose Activities Best Suited for You: There are plenty of types of exercise that you can try. Whether you choose yoga, water aerobics, pickleball, or weight lifting, it’s important to know how to properly engage in the activity. For instance, if you fail to follow the directions on a weight machine or you aren’t sure what to do, your chances of being injured are greater.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to find an exercise you can do all year round or a few you
can participate in throughout the year. For example, walking is a great exercise which can be done indoors and outdoors. It can also be started out slowly and at shorter intervals, but can be easily adjusted for increased activity. For safety while walking, it’s a good idea to walk in an area that has a smooth and soft surface, and is well-lighted. It is also wise to avoid areas that intersect with traffic.
In addition to staying well-hydrated during your exercise, it’s important to wear comfortable clothing and wear appropriate shoes for the activity. If you begin to experience any pain or discomfort while exercising, consult with your doctor right away.
As people begin to age, they begin to require additional assistance. As the child of aging parents, watching this process can be surreal and painful. The people who provided you with all your needs for so long, the seemingly invincible adults whose strength and vigor taught you what means to live with energy, slowly begin to weaken. They slow down. They don’t think as well. They age.
Aging parents can often use a helping hand. Food, laundry, cleaning, and many other common tasks begin to get overwhelming and even dangerous. You need to step in and help out. And yet, your parents aren’t helpless. They’re proud people. They’re still the same strong adults who grew you from a seed into the full fledged adult you are now. You don’t want to be rash. Don’t banish your beloved parents to a nursing home. Nursing homes are the source of thousands of abuse complaints every year, according to Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard.
Luckily, many businesses offer top notch services that will help keep your parents independent. Consider these and others like them.
Cooking is hard. Even experienced professionals make dangerous mistakes. And certain techniques, like deep frying, can make any kitchen a flammable hazard. Moreover, easy meals may not be ideal for an aging person’s health. Enormous numbers of aging adults today are suffering from diabetes or prediabetes, conditions that are tricky to care for. Here are some good services to keep your folks well-fed and satisfied.
- Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is a classic service that helps elderly people—and others—to get nutritious food with minimal effort. Good variety, solid service, and a long history of success make this service a comfortable one.
- Mom’s Meals. Like Meals on Wheels, Mom’s Meals provides a wide variety of nutritious frozen foods to seniors and other people with special needs. And many insurance and social services programs cover the cost.
Home Health Aides
Home health aides aren’t quite nurses, aren’t quite cooks, aren’t quite cleaning professionals. They combine elements of all three and more. A home health aide is a professional jack-of-all-trades, someone able to adapt to whichever needs your parents have. Flexible, generous, and multi-skilled, home health are a great tool to keep your parents out of the nursing home. They’ll help cook, clean, check meds, and take care of the miscellaneous needs that arise regularly for aging people.
An app a day may keep the nursing home away. Technology can provide all kinds of solutions for an aging parent. Don’t stereotype your elders; older people often take to cutting edge tech with the enthusiasm of a geeky teen. Health apps, communication gadgets, self-driving cars, etc. The modern world is overflowing with convenient sleek wonders that can provide your aging parents with access to all the world’s joys. And technology can keep your folks independent. Some pieces of tech may allow your parent to communicate directly with healthcare professionals without having to make direct contact; no need to have a nurse stop by twice a day—record blood sugars and upload the data from home.
In 2013, there were 4,735 traffic-related pedestrian deaths in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the likelihood of a pedestrian being killed or injured by a vehicle increases with age. In fact, pedestrians aged 65 and over account for an estimated 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths. Given this information, it’s clear that our older population must remain diligent and aware when they are out and about. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe as a pedestrian.
Pay Attention and Communicate With Drivers
It is easy to become distracted by your surroundings when you are out for a walk. In fact, many of us go for a walk for the purpose of enjoying the scenery. However, as a pedestrian, it is incumbent upon you to remain aware of traffic, especially when you are trying to cross the street. You may think the driver of the vehicle sees you but, unless you make eye contact, or are otherwise signaled by the driver, you cannot know for sure. In order to ensure that you don’t become one of the more than 9 distracted driving fatalities reported in the Unites States every day, keep your head up, remain aware, and communicate with drivers before crossing the street.
It may be inconvenient and less physically taxing to cross the street in the middle of the block, but it is not safe. Crosswalks offer more visibility for pedestrians, and they are significantly safer to use. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, in 2012, 68 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the 65 and over age group occurred at non-intersection locations. If a crosswalk is unavailable, cross the street at a corner. A car accident can easily kill a pedestrian, even in busy areas where vehicles are driving slowly. In fact, according to the NIH, 43 percent of all pedestrian deaths in 2013 occurred in the most populous states: California, Florida, Texas, and New York. But, it was Florida and Delaware which had the highest pedestrian fatality rate, at 3 deaths for every 100,000 residents. So, stay visible to drivers by utilizing crosswalks, or crossing at street corners, regardless of traffic speed and flow. The extra effort is definitely worth the trouble.
Even though you may be crossing the street at the corner, or by using the designated crosswalk, you must still obey traffic signals, just as drivers are required to do. If the street you are attempting to cross has a crosswalk signal, use it. Only enter the crosswalk once you are certain drivers have seen you, and if the crosswalk signal indicates you can cross. Do not begin to cross the street after the pedestrian signal begins to flash, however. That is akin to a driver’s yellow light, so you should stop and wait until the signal changes again signifying that it is safe to cross. Otherwise, you may not make it across the street before the traffic signals change, and you could be caught in cross traffic.
Senior pedestrians have a higher risk of injury and death than most age groups. Seniors can be a bit slower in their movements and, as we age, our senses, including vision and hearing, can diminish. However, by remaining aware of drivers, and ensuring they are aware of you, and by properly utilizing crosswalks, corners, and traffic signals, you can dramatically lower your risk of being injured or killed by a vehicle.