Can you maintain your balance for 30 seconds while standing on one foot with your eyes closed? Try it and you may be unpleasantly surprised, as I was when I learned that our balance system silently starts becoming less efficient around age 40.
That’s one of the reasons why, each year, one in three Canadians aged 65 and older will experience a fall. And while taking a tumble might not seem like that big a deal, the fall-out can sometimes be long-lasting, and life-altering.
For one thing, during a fall, the brain can strike the hard surface of the skull, resulting in a brain injury — which in turn can increase the risk of developing dementia later in life. Fall and fracture a hip (falls being the culprit behind 95 per cent of such events), and your chances of dying are one in five; and the likelihood of permanent disability, one in two.
However, there are some simple things you can do to reduce your risk of falls, starting with doing exercises to bolster your sense of balance. You can read about those, and other fall-prevention strategies in this health feature I wrote for Good Times in 2016, ‘Before a Fall.’
A belated thank-you to the interviewees who so kindly shared their time and expertise:
- Anna Ade; Kerry Delaney; Tilak Dutta, PhD, a scientist and team lead of the home and community team at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
- Ramona Gheorge, a nurse with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s falls prevention program.
- Susan Hunter, PhD, a physiotherapist and assistant professor in the school of physical therapy at Western University in London, Ont.
- Ana Neuhof, a physiotherapist who was with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s falls prevention program when the story originally appeared.
- Kim Van Schooten, PhD, who is now a postdoctoral fellow with NeuRA (Neuroscience Research Australia), and co-joint senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales (Medicine) Sydney.
- Janine Verge, an audiologist and director of Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres in Halifax.