Following on from a previous post on preventing falls, I am continuing that theme and looking at avoiding injury. I know from personal experience, that the older I get, the more I seem to be injuring myself.
My Mother would say that I was prone to injury when I was in my teens. However, that I could put down to the fact that I was pushing the boundaries of my experience and capabilities. I was involved with caving, potholing, mountaineering, rock-climbing etc, now I just walk – and I still hurt myself!
So, given the fact that as we get older, we become more prone to accidents and injury, what can we do to prevent this from happening? Or at least reduce the chances of injury.
Let’s start with some of the major physical factors that can help you prevent injury; these can be divided into five categories:
- Mental Functioning.
- Health and Medication.
Poor vision increases the risk of injury. Our eyesight changes as we get older, often resulting in a reduced ability to see things clearly. Poor night vision, sensitivity to glare, and a diminished sense of depth perception are all part of normal aging.
The solution to this, is get your eyes tested regularly. Even if you think that your eyesight is OK, get it checked anyway. If you are prescribed glasses, wear them! Also get the prescription checked regularly to make sure your eyesight is not worsening.
This is another sense that can diminish with age. Because hearing loss can make you less aware of dangers (for example, sirens, cars honking, smoke alarms), it’s important to have your hearing checked regularly and to properly maintain and use hearing aids if you need them.
Issues with hearing or the ear in general, can have an impact on your sense of balance. An ear infection can seriously de-stabilise you and increase the risks of accidents and injury.
The ability to understand and relate clearly to our environment is key to personal safety. This function is referred to as Spatial Awareness. It allows you, through the input from all senses, to have a very good idea what is always happening around you. Often referred to as the 6th sense, this ability to sense danger or hazards is crucial to avoiding injury.
In old age the ability to coordinate and correlate all the inputs to the brain starts to diminish. Therefore, it is important to stop, look and listen more frequently. Pause before doing anything to make sure you are fully aware of the situation.
Health & Medication
Some medications can cause drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, and muscle relaxation, any of which could lead to injury. Always be wary of taking medication, especially if the prescription is new or has recently changed. If there are any worries or concerns, always speak to your GP.
This is crucial to all age groups but none more so than when you are getting older. Exercise that develops your core strength is very important as this will improve your balance and gait. This does not require expensive membership to your local gym, all you need is a mat, carpeted floor or a chair!
The following are a few simple exercises that you can do at home:
- Seated side bends. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, keeping one hand behind your head and the other reaching sideways towards the floor. Lean over as though you’re going to touch the floor, tightening the oblique muscles running along the side of your body in the process. Return to your initial position and repeat on the opposite side.
- The Bridge. Lie flat on your back, keeping your knees bent and feet flat against the ground. Tighten your core, raising your hips until a straight line is formed between your knees and chest- do not arch your back. Hold for three breaths, then lower back down.
- The Superman. This movement strengthens your lower back and improves stability. Lie face down on the floor with arms outstretched in front of you. Raise your head, right arm and left leg in tandem about two inches, then lower and repeat on the opposite side.
- Leg lifts. Work your lower abdominal muscles by lying flat on the floor with legs and feet relaxed. Contract your abs while raising one leg about 5 inches off the floor, holding for 3 counts. Repeat with the other leg.
Repeat each exercise just a few times to start with, slowly increasing the number of ‘reps’ as you gain strength. However, always seek medical advice before starting any new fitness regime.
If we take care of our bodies, then it should look after us. The aging process is something that we cannot stop. We can, however, reduce the impact of the aging process by being more aware of the problems that growing old bring us.