If you’re age 65 or older, it probably doesn’t take a slick winter sidewalk to get you thinking about falling. The loss of balance and strength that come with age make us less stable on our feet – and more prone to falls – even in our homes and other seemingly “safe” places.
Seniors fall more often than you may think. Last year 21,722 Mainers over age 65 sought emergency room treatment as a result of a fall, reports the Maine Health Data Organization. “That’s about 60 people each day,” says Anna Guest, Fall Prevention Project Director at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging and part of the Maine Falls Prevention Coalition.
Aging doesn’t have to bring you down
At Martin’s Point, we want seniors to know their stories can be different – with balance training. Balance training keeps you steadier, builds strength, and reduces risk for injury – as 73-year-old Patricia Sipos of South Portland knows firsthand.
“I’ve had a few falls – one of which landed me in the hospital with a concussion and a hematoma the size of a grapefruit,” says the Martin’s Point’s US Family Health Plan member from South Portland. Then Pat started attending the All About Balance class at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Scarborough in March of 2017. “I haven’t fallen in a year,” she says, adding that she’s also able to safely enjoy favorite activities like camping and gardening again.
Building balance, one hour at a time
New evidence shows older adults can improve balance by an impressive 25 to 40 percent with specific exercise training, called high-level perturbation training. “Essentially, that means repeating difficult tasks, such as standing on one foot,” explains Jason Adour, PT, DPT, owner of Maine Strong Balance Center in Scarborough, Maine, and All About Balance instructor.
Balance training also involves building strength. “Weakness increases risk of falling by 2.6 times for older adults,” explains Adour. The seniors in his class work on strength chair rises (modified squats) and more. It’s also important to challenge the vestibular system – which helps us maintain balance in motion – with exercises like standing with eyes closed as you turn your head side to side, as if you were saying “no.”
How much training does it take to improve? The ideal target is 50 hours, completed in under six months. “It’s very different than cardiovascular training, where the recommendation is 150 minutes every week,” adds Ardour. “It helps to think of gaining balance in terms of gaining points, as opposed to a weekly requirement.”
Learn the moves in Scarborough for free
Get started on your 50 hours with our All About Balance class. There’s no charge for the one-hour class, which takes place Mondays, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Martin’s Point Health Care Center in Scarborough.
“It’s a wonderful benefit, and we work at our own pace, without pressure to keep up,” adds Pat. Ardour even gives homework – exercises you can do on your home – so you can build balance, wherever you are.
Call 207-303-0612 today to RSVP for the free All About Balance class in Scarborough. (Dropping in is fine, too, as long as there’s space.) You can also find more information and resources for preventing falls at www.knowfallsforme.org.