The National Council on Aging has designated Sept. 22 as National Falls Prevention Day. NYIT Associate Professor Veronica Southard says older adults should be mindful of the risks of falling, but not let their fears take over their lives.
"Fear of falling causes people to fall," says Southard, a physical therapist at NYIT School of Health Professions. "It's a cycle: you're afraid of falling so you're afraid to move; you're afraid to move and you get weak; you get weak and you're more likely to fall."
Instead, says Southard, the best thing older adults (anyone over 50) can do is evaluate their risks and make changes to address them. "Look at your home and think about removing scatter rugs, installing a grab bar in the shower, upgrading your lighting, and keeping things in your kitchen at levels that are convenient to you," she says.
But Southard says that if people are afraid of falling, they need to address that issue. They can discuss the issue with their health care providers, especially if they are concerned about a problem with balance, strength, or vision. The answers may lie in physical therapy or addressing an area where a person lacks confidence in his or her abilities.
"Vigilance, not fear, is the best thing - being smarter or cautious when you need to be, such as when it's icy outside. But when fear starts to limit your activity and takes over, it's detrimental," she says. "Thinking about preventing falls and taking action to prevent them should be part of your overall health plan. For successful and independent aging you need to stay strong, keep moving and keep up your activity levels."