Among the myriad of other health concerns that arise for the elderly, falling stands out as one of the most common injuries. In fact, almost one in three people over the age of 65 fall every year. For many, falling can be a serious concern, as it could lead to broken bones or other complications. In fact, major injuries occur in 5 to 15 percent of falls. Even just the fear of falling causes stress in older adults who often sacrifice their normal lifestyles for fear of falling. Luckily, these injuries are preventable, and new ways to prevent falling are found each year. Modern technology has been instrumental in developing systems to prevent falling.
Learning why and how falls happen is the first step to understanding how to prevent a fall. Looking out for common conditions that increase the potential for you to have a fall is an important preventative measure in and of itself. Many common causes of falls include:
Being Less Active: As they age, older adults often stop maintaining a regular fitness routine. This creates a snowball effect where they develop more issues due to inactivity, which prevents them from becoming active again. A lack of physical activity and regular exercise, coupled with the normal symptoms of aging, can reduce strength and coordination. Not getting routine exercise also creates and exacerbates balance problems, which leads to falls.
Deterioration of Senses: Another common health condition that comes naturally with aging but is a risk factor for falling is deterioration in vision and hearing. If you have impaired vision and hearing and find it difficult to notice obstacles in your surroundings or navigate darker or more cluttered environments, it could lead to a dangerous fall. Impaired vision means that rugs, steps, and other things that can cause you to trip are harder to notice, leading to falls.
Side Effects of Medication: Many medications have side effects that cause dizziness or fainting. Ones to be especially cautious of include medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart conditions. If you’ve switched medications in the past few weeks, that will also increase your risk of falling.
Many important preventative measures for falling can be achieved just by going to the doctor’s office regularly and receiving check-ups, tests, and any recommendations that will provide a better insight into what techniques are best for you. However, there are some general resources that are easily doable at home and that provide a large benefit to seniors. One of the most important ones is found right in our pockets.
Our phones are starting to become more and more important to our everyday lives. They also have the potential to be powerful health tools. Apple iPhones are a great example of this. Over the last few updates, they’ve added more features to their Health app, and have rolled out more and more health monitoring functions built right into your phone. And, as they roll out their newest IOS 15 update, they’ve introduced a new and important feature for older adults: Walking Steadiness.
Walking Steadiness works automatically. As you walk with their phones at around waist level in their pockets or in a bag, your phone will use its built-in motion detectors and a variety of algorithms to monitor your walking. It records data about your walking patterns over the course of a few days, then gives a “Walking Steadiness” rating to you. This rating is based on walking speed, step length, and step asymmetry. The critical component is step asymmetry. If one of your feet moves more heavily or faster than the other, it may be a sign that you are limping or otherwise physically impaired. This makes falling an immediate threat, so it factors heavily into the overall Walking Steadiness rating.
The rating itself is given on three tiers: OK, low, or very low. If someone has a low Walking Steadiness rating, that means that they are more likely to fall within the next twelve months, and other measures should be taken. Conveniently, Apple does have a Health Sharing feature that you can use to share your health tracking with caregivers, family, and friends.
Preventing falls is very important to ensure that you age safely and are able to maintain a high quality of life. Using new technology to do this is an easy way to help achieve this, so be sure to utilize it whenever possible!