Don't Let the Fear of Falling Rule Your Life
By Sally Saenger
If you're like me and the vast majority of the senior population, you have concerns about losing your balance and falling. As a person who is active and who wants to stay that way, I am very concerned about the risk of falling and hurting myself.
But I don't let the fear of falling rule my life.
I still surf, hike, dance and swim - there's no fear of falling with swimming! - and I'm not afraid to walk on uneven surfaces or go up and down hills. The main difference for me nowadays compared to when I was young is that I need to pay more attention while doing activities where there is a risk of falling.
Being more attentive while I'm active is a small price to pay to keep doing the things that help me stay fit and bring me joy.
Physical activity is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Yet as we age, being active comes with a higher risk of falling. Strength, agility, decision making and reaction time are some of the factors in balance that tend to weaken and slow down with age. As well, the ability to tolerate stress and environmental extremes diminishes in our later years. All these factors contribute to an increased risk of falling.
But there is good news!
You can mitigate the effects of aging by choosing a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise on a regular basis. Within that exercise routine should be movements that specifically challenge your ability to balance.
Balance is a skill that needs to be practiced. The familiar adage "use it or lose it" definitely applies to balance. Unfortunately, as we age, we tend to be less active, which makes us more prone to falling. Of course, you might want to rethink activities like skateboarding and rock climbing. But that doesn't mean you should give up on all sports or activities you enjoyed in the past.
Engage in the activities you enjoy and be "in the moment" with extra attentiveness and awareness, so that you can safely participate in that activity. This may mean you need to modify an exercise or movement, use a tool, or go slower to make it attainable or safer. Making adjustments so you can participate in an activity is preferable to sitting on the couch lamenting that you can't do something because you might fall.
Modifying and adjusting pertains to your mental state as well. Your attitude plays an important role in maintaining and building self-confidence. And confidence in movement is half the battle with balance and stability. Apply an “attitude of gratitude” to what you're able to do now. Then when you accomplish something beyond your usual capabilities, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
You have the power to bring the fear-of-falling down to a manageable level. Being aware of a risk for falling is different than being guided by fear.
- Participate in the activities you enjoy with an awareness of the risks and be extra attentive during the activity.
- Do purposeful exercises that address your balance skills on a regular basis.
Those two behaviors, along with a positive attitude, go a long way towards keeping you active and enjoying life fully.