Falls & Quality of Life | A Positive Approach
More than 1 in 3 people age 65 or older falls each year. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, falls result in more than 2.3 million fall injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 650,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 deaths. Among older adults, falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury related deaths.
With statistics like those, it is no wonder that just the fear of falling can be debilitating for aging adults. In order to avoid a fall, seniors may reduce their walking, forego social events or even avoid leaving the house. However, this behavior is a recipe for risk. The fear of a fall is understandable and twofold: there is fear of pain and the slow process of recovery, but also fear of the loss of independence and a changed lifestyle. Hiding minor falls from a doctor can be common for this reason, but also detrimental to the individual’s health and quality of life. So, how do we deflate this fear and promote life?
Because a fall can affect quality of life and independence so dramatically, deflating the fear and shifting the emphasis away from falls and onto quality of life may be a helpful strategy to prevent a fall. Rather than a fear-based approach, a health-focused perspective can create a positive platform on which to build your vision for aging in place. For example, instead of using a negative motivator like,” I don’t want to fall or lose my house”, set positive goals such as, “I want to be able to walk three miles “or “I want to be able to play a round of golf” or “I want to take my granddaughter to the zoo on Tuesdays.” When our fitness routines are built around and support the things that we want to be able to do, we are motivated to exercise our independence and use it to its fullest instead of losing it.
How we think about aging also dramatically impacts our quality of life, how we age, and even what we expect from our bodies. In a New York Times article, Judith Graham shared compelling research that older people actually become what they think. In fact, studies showed that our stereotypes about aging dramatically impact our health. “When stereotypes are negative- seniors convinced becoming old means becoming useless, weak, and helpless or devalued- they are less likely to seek preventative medical care and die earlier,” she said. “They are also more likely to suffer memory loss and poor physical functioning.” She went on to say that, “when stereotypes are positive- when older adults view age as a time of wisdom, self-realization and satisfaction- results pointed toward a higher level of functioning. What is more, a report in, The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that seniors with this positive bias are 44 percent more likely to fully recover from a bout of disability.”
Engaging our bodies and our minds in developing healthy and positive patterns is the first step, not just to fall prevention, but to creating a high quality of life for ourselves as we age.
Published on September 5, 2013.