In the spring, I’m presenting to our statewide assisted living association on implementing facility-wide fall prevention policies. I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading through research on fall prevention for older adults.
Fall prevention is one of the most common problems faced by institutions that care for older adults. According to the CDC, fall death rates in the US increased by 30% from 2007 to 2016. If this rate continues, it’s anticipated there will be seven fall deaths every hour by 2030. It's obvious the problem is getting worse, despite efforts to prevent avoidable falls.
In my research, I’ve found a few problems. Namely, the discrepancy between what research has found actually works and how falls prevention programs are structured in real life. Not to mention the “fluffy” information available to the general public online.
Not only do most fall prevention programs not work, but we implement policies that have...
“Mobility is the key to survival: this came up again and again in my research.” -Bill Gifford
The medical field of aging is relatively new. It wasn’t until the last century that we saw an exponential increase in human life expectancy and as a result, we’ve only just started to study aging. And there is still a lot of gray area. One thing we know for sure is that there is huge variability in how we age.
And that there is a big difference between lifespan and healthspan. Thanks to modern medicine, we’ve seen a huge increase in lifespan over the last few decades. But unfortunately, that increase in lifespan doesn’t always accompany an increase in quality of life.
And this is where healthspan comes in. Healthspan is how many healthy years we can add to someone’s life. Because really, what’s the point of adding extra years if you can’t enjoy them?
Much of the findings of studies on aging have been...
“Until you actually learn to fall, your nervous system will never truly know that it is actually safe to fall.” -Dr. Shante Cofield
I spend the majority of my time discussing concerns about falls with my clients, so it’s on my mind often. As a physical therapist specializing in empowering adults throughout the aging process, both the future and current risk of falls are the number one concern each of my clients express. And to guide them through this process, I have to help them analyze both the physical and psychological risk factors. Because they both play a major role.
Another one of my roles is to help all adults adopt forms of physical activity and exercise they enjoy. We’ve all heard the health benefits of physical activity, which are created by exposing ourselves to controlled stress. And this defines the actual purpose of exercise, or putting yourself in any uncomfortable situation. To allow your body to adapt by exposing yourself to...
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a copy of the book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford. I keep a running list of books related to health and aging, but this one wasn’t on my list and caught my eye. I’m so happy I picked it up. The comprehensive information in the book blew me away. I will summarize a little bit below but I highly recommend picking up a copy.
The author of the book, Bill Gifford, is a journalist who became curious about aging after watching the very different aging trajectories of his great uncle and his grandfather. How could two siblings live such drastically different lives? His great uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in his 70’s while his grandfather lived a very active and playful life, still farming into his 90’s when he suddenly passed from an infection.
Bill Gifford decided do a little investigating of his own. Why do we all age so differently? Is there a way to predict how we will...
Does your balance seem to keep getting worse no matter what you do? Never feel like you’re making meaningful progress?
If so, you aren’t alone. The inability to both set realistic health goals, especially for balance issues and reach them is one of the most common concerns I hear from my clients at their first therapy visit. And as I get to know them, it’s clear why this is a recurring theme in their lives.
Many of us develop the bad habit of holding on to self-limiting beliefs, as Gay Hendricks does an excellent job of highlighting in The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level. These subconscious mindsets have the potential to limit all areas of our lives and are even more dangerous when we don’t realize we are holding onto them. And you may not realize how often your own hidden beliefs are dictating your life.
Let’s take a closer look at how you’re limiting yourself with your health goals, and what you can do...
Working on your balance doesn’t need to involve any fancy equipment and can be as simple as putting a 2x4 on a stack of books or yoga blocks to create a simple beam! Or if you aren’t so confident with your balance, try the 2x4 on the floor by itself first. Then give these 3 moves a try:
Pelvic listing on the beam is a great way to work on single leg standing and get your lateral hip muscles doing their job again. Stand on he beam on one foot and focus on pulling your hip inward to keep it stacked above your ankle.
Heel-to-toe standing and walking on the beam. If you have to move quickly along the beam it’s an indicator you don’t have good balance control. The slower you move here the better.
And the trickiest one for me: walking sideways along the beam. Try it both directions!
Some tips to get more out of your balance work:
Try this in front of a mirror for feedback and motor learning. This helps integrate your brain and your body.
Try your balance...
In my years as a physical therapist and restorative exercise specialist helping adults age well, I’ve realized aging well has more to do with mindset than any lack of knowledge of health. The adults I encounter who age well both view aging as a positive experience and maintain a strong mind-body connection as they age. The clients I’ve worked with have inspired me to do a lot of research over the years on healthy aging and these quotes have all inspired me along the way. I hope they do the same for you.
“Becoming an Old Person in Training makes it easier to think critically about what age means in this society and the forces at work behind depictions of older people as useless and pathetic. Shame can damage self-esteem and quality of life as much as externally imposed stereotyping. Becoming an Old Person in Training is a political act, because it derails this shame and self-loathing. It undoes the “otherness” that powers ageism (and...
Wanting to gain some strength while improving your floor mobility? Try out these 3 simple but powerful floor mobility drills. A few things to keep in mind as you try these:
You’ll get more out of them if you move as slow as you possibly can. I mean painfully slow.
If you only get part of the way through the motion and find yourself plopping back on the floor, grab a few bolsters like a cushion to raise the level of the surface you're sitting on. Bolstering means meeting your body where it’s currently at and allowing you to work within your given range.
This is an example of taking a bigger movement like floor transfers and breaking that movement down into smaller pieces to improve your technique and expand your options. You can do this with any skill, it’s super fun!
In recent years, research continues to find that physical mobility is one of the strongest indicators of the risk of chronic disease as we age. In hospitals around the country, staff members at all levels are being trained to help screen patients for mobility upon admission and before their return to home. Walking is now considered a 6th vital sign and physicians are increasingly encouraged to screen their patients for their walking ability.
In the clinic, we often aren’t seeing clients until they’re having a problem with their mobility. It’s our mission to make sure everyone has an awareness of subtle warning signs before there’s a problem. Upon every initial assessment, we screen our clients for 5 natural movements that give us a comprehensive picture of their mobility and help them guide their course of action.
Below is the list of movements we perform at every initial assessment. If you can perform the 5 below movements AND maintain your...
One of the keys to core stability, minimizing low back pain, and powerful walking is being able to maintain a neutral pelvis throughout the day. If you're dealing with tight and/or weak hamstrings though, it's impossible to get yourself into a neutral pelvis position.
Due to excessive time spent in chairs, most of us have developed BOTH tight and weak hamstrings. The hamstrings are a large muscle group that runs up the back of the thigh, attaching just below the knee and to the base of the pelvis. This tightness of the hamstrings pulls your pelvis into a tucked position, rendering your core useless and putting excessive compression on your low back. Not a happy situation for your back or pelvic floor!
Our favorite way to lengthen the hamstrings is to do a standing forward bend. This is a stretch we've all seen before, but also has a lot of potential for some compensations we want to avoid. Most mistakenly believe the goal of this stretch is to touch the toes... However, as we...