Falls Prevention

By Ben Thomson, M.A., HHP

Please do not try the following activities without the direct, in-person guidance of a certified instructor. Author is not responsible for any illness or injury resulting from these practices.

A few days ago I lost a loved-one to complications resulting from a fall. I am inspired to write this article for those of us who still have time to prepare.

In my many years of helping older adults prepare for their later years, I have focused on teaching my clients how to transition from lying to sitting to standing and to moving with least possible effort. By using the principles of:

  1. Conscious Breathing
  2. Relaxing the Body
  3. Staying in Motion, and
  4. Maintaining a Good Posture/Position…

Older adults can expect:

  • Improved physical mobility
  • Reduced fear
  • Significantly reduced likelihood of falls, and
  • Increased safety in the case of an actual fall!

Although these principles are important for everyone, their importance increases with age.

First things First

Before teaching older adults to go from lying to sitting to standing and moving, I have found it necessary teach this in the opposite direction. Here’s what I mean…

Using support.

In an open space, stand next to a chair. Begin by using the back and seat of the chair to steady yourself as you slowly (breathing and relaxing) make your way to the ground. Although you are utilizing an external support, and perhaps most of your body weight is supported by the chair, be aware of how much of your weight is being supported externally. In the next exercise, you will see why this is so important. Continue to make your way to the ground in the simplest and most effortless way possible using the chair as your support.

Using partial support.

Now, doing the exact same exercise, utilize the stability of the chair to support your downward movement, but only partially. This means you must keep some control over your own body mechanics and the action of gravity. Continue to find your way to the ground in the simplest way possible, maintaining a measure of self-control and giving only some of your weight to the support of the chair. You will begin to see the importance of breathing and relaxing to maintain control of the body.

Using no support.

Repeat the above while not utilizing any support that the chair might offer. You may place your hands or elbow or any part of your body on the chair as you would above, but keep complete control of your own downward movement by not relying on the chair (imagine that the chair could collapse if you gave it any of your weight). Now try this a few times both in upward and downward movements. The aim of the exercise is to rely less and less on external supports as we transition from standing to floor and floor to standing.

With practice in everyday environments, we can learn to become more responsible for our body and less reliant on external structures. For a complete demonstration, please contact the author.