One of the things that toddlers and elderly people have in common is that their balance is not at its best. There the resemblance ends: a toddler’s balance will get better, an older person’s will probably not; a toddler will jump up unscathed from a fall, an older person may well be badly injured. Trips and slips send thousands of elders to the emergency room every day in America, and guarding against falls is one of the best ways to avoid an unwelcome visit to the hospital.
Ditch the Clutter
Whether it is for yourself or for your vulnerable, elderly parents, the first thing to do is to spot the hazards. Rugs that can slip, or which don’t lie flat; objects left on the floor, especially on the stairs; pets and their accessories; anything which is an obstacle along the main routes that are used around the home—all these need to be cleared as far as possible.
Check the Lights
As you get older, eyesight is not so strong and adjusting to changes in light level takes longer. Obviously, if you don’t see something you are more likely to fall over it. So ensure that lighting levels are high in as much of the home as possible and that light switches are easily available near every door. Outside lighting may be important too.
Wherever there is a change in level (or more generally if there is a severe balance problem) fix bars and handles to provide stability. Handrails on stairs should be at the right level (ideally on both sides), and the bathroom will need grab bars near the bath, shower, and toilet. Baths and showers also need non-slip mats or strips.
Get the Kit
It is worth investing in personal items that will make life more secure. If a cane would help, get one that is measured for you by a trained person, and learn how to use it properly. A grabber can save you from overbalancing. All shoes and slippers should be secure and have non-slip soles.
Losing independence is a major fear for the elderly, so it is important to stay in control. Just as sensible funeral planning asserts a feeling of being prepared for mortality, so sensible health care prepares one for the process of aging.
Fear of a fall can result in older people moving around less, becoming less fit and even more liable to fall. So having a safe environment should encourage you to move and exercise more. Have a daily exercise program that you stick to. Walk regularly. Consider joining an exercise class for seniors—tai chi and yoga are excellent options.
A Good Age
Every stage of life has its trials and its blessings. Facing up to old age involves a change of perception about the environment we live in. There are things that can be done to give us back more control over the trials, and that should enable us to see the blessings all the more clearly.