At this age, many of us are dealing with health issues. Some are small and manageable, others large and not so easy to manage, but inevitably both the number of issues and their severity are growing. Our bodies are becoming more frail, our resistance to things like the flu is weakening, and we may be trying to cope with the challenge of dealing with more than one illness at a time – Barrett’s esophagus and diabetes anyone?
As depressing as all of this may be, there is one thing that surpasses it all. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year, one in four Americans over the age of 65 falls. And even worse: every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
My husband tends to be a bit accident-prone so we have spent our fair share of time in the ER, especially in the last three years. Thankfully, there hasn’t been any lasting damage so far, but there is no question that even a minor fall can affect your life in so many ways. I have become so nervous about falling that I’m trying to talk my husband into putting a fence around our backyard so we don’t have to walk the dog on a leash anymore (she’s really strong and actually did pull me over once about a year ago when she spotted a heron walking across our street).
What happens when you fall? Obviously, there could be a physical injury. Breaking a hip from a fall is very common, as is breaking a wrist, especially if you try to stop yourself from hitting the ground. But there are other things that can happen too. Depending on where you are, even if you are not injured, you might have trouble getting up again. Ever since I had my right knee replaced several years ago, I have been reluctant to kneel on it. So when my dog pulled me over last year and we were alone in the middle of a grassy area with nothing to hold onto to get back up, I found myself trying to get up without kneeling and it was hard!
But it’s not just the physical outcomes – these kinds of incidents also take a mental toll. Being overly careful, too hesitant, and just generally afraid to engage in physical activities will have its own negative consequences.
The good news in all of this is that you can take some positive steps to reduce your risk of falling.
Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Don’t let this be you!
I'm Linda Fleit. My husband and I were lucky enough to retire when we were 61, about nine years ago. We love being retired and want to share all that we've learned over the years about this wonderful stage of life.