Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Balance Training: From the Ground Up

GettyImages-1317590065Improving balance can be tricky. Where do we start? What even is balance training? Standing on one leg? Walking more? It seems like everyone has their own idea of balance. What we do know, is that it becomes more important for active older adults to build and maintain balance with each passing year.

All of these can certainly help our balance! But a method that has seen success is building strength, endurance, and balance from the ground up. It makes sense after all. Our feet are the only part of our bodies in direct contact with the ground as we walk. It stands to reason that strengthening the foot, ankle, and muscles of the lower legs would be helpful.

We have been incorporating lower leg and foot/ankle exercises for the past year but two of the most practical ones (in my experience) have been the short foot drill (invented by Dr. Vladimir Janda) and the tibialis raise (popularized by Ben Patrick the “knees over toes guy”).

The short foot drill can be complicated to learn and teach but I have found it to be highly beneficial for seniors. It might take a few extra minutes to explain the nuances of the drill but once they have their “lightbulb moment” this drill can be beneficial for essentially any standing movement one encounters. The idea is to spread the toes wide to widen the base of the foot. Try and find the “foot tripod”. This means the 1st metatarsal (by the big toe), the 5th metatarsal (by the pinky toe) and the heel. Then gently (think 20% effort) press the tips of the toes into the ground until the 1st metatarsal head lifts up.

This movement can be further complicated, but I find that this is a good starting point for most people. This movement trains the intrinsic foot muscles which are responsible for building and maintaining the arch of the foot. For those who have flat feet or collapsed arches, this can be an essential movement.

While some residents are still in the process of learning the short foot drill, the ones who have “got it” speak about the benefits. They have noted that it applies to standing exercises as well as balance and stability while walking and standing throughout the days. Some have said it has lessened their knee pain. My personal favorite bit of feedback was from one of our most consistent class attendees who said the short foot drill felt like it was “waking up” her feet and legs. I think it is a very important drill to put time into learning and teaching.

The tibialis raise is (fortunately) a good deal easier to teach and explain. While the typical version is performed standing, I almost always use a modified seated version with our senior fitness classes.

The basic concept behind tibialis raises is to strengthen the often neglected and underdeveloped anterior tibialis muscle. This muscle is responsible for “dorsiflexing” the foot which is a technical term for saying “this muscle lifts the foot up”. When practicing this exercise, I instruct our residents to put their fingers on the tibialis anterior muscle so they can feel it contract as they lift the front of their feet upwards. This has been the most useful method for allowing them to feel the muscle contract. Activating and strengthening this muscle seems to have a positive effect on knee and ankle healthy. The tibialis anterior can be thought of as one of the “braking” muscles of the lower body. When one is walking or changing direction, some of the forces from the ground should be absorbed by the tibialis anterior. When this muscle is weak or inactive that can lead to extra forces irritating the knees or ankles. Having strong and healthy tibialis anterior muscles can protect the legs and increase balance.

As for results, well it depends. There isn’t an exact way to track how effective these exercises are. As mentioned, I have heard great feedback from my residents. When it comes to balance, I think incorporating these two exercises to strengthen and activate the feet and lower legs as part of a comprehensive exercise plan can be highly beneficial to almost anyone.

Find out how we help residents improve their balance >

 

Topics: active aging balance training balance training for seniors

Fall Prevention Week gets an Upgrade

GettyImages-526312285If you’ve ever worked with older adults you likely know about this love/hate relationship everyone has with any program labeled “Fall Prevention”. Residents are certainly interested in learning about how to prevent falls. They have a healthy fear of falling. But often times, they don’t want to move outside of their comfort zone to practice the things that will actually improve balance and fall prevention.

So what better way to face a fear than head on, right?

That’s what NIFS fitness managers did during Fall Prevention Week. With an average of 50 program participants at each site, there was certainly interest in the topic! Here are some tips for the basics of planning a robust Fall Prevention Week:

Get other departments involved

The week may have been okay without any other staff support, but I think you have a better investment from the community and from the residents when other departments get involved. The first department that comes to mind for this topic is Physical Therapy. Many PT departments were happy to work with NIFS staff in bringing presentations, device checks, and even home safety checks to residents. I think it goes without saying that partnering with Food & Beverage is always fun because who doesn’t like to have snacks? Fortunately, many of our communities also have a dietitian on-site and are able to take it one step further with an event centered on balancing nutrition along with balancing the body. The possibilities are really endless.

Have a mix of interactive and educational events

One of the most popular events across the board was the Fall Prevention Presentation with the Getting Up From a Fall Workshop. During this presentation, NIFS staff members discussed ways to avoid falls in the first place, but they also took the time to demonstrate how to safely fall and (where appropriate) how to get back up off the floor. Participants then had the option to work one-on-one with staff and learn how to safely get themselves onto the floor and back up into a chair without falling. Residents appreciated the chance to learn and then to try things themselves.

Follow up with participants

A key element to Fall Prevention Week is tracking who participated so we know who to reach out to afterwards. There’s always a “next step” available so it’s nice to be able to personalize that according to the needs of the specific participant. For some people, it’s a balance evaluation, for others it might be a 1-on-1 exercise prescription, and for others it’s simply going to be a class recommendation. No matter what the recommendation is, just following up with each individual makes the week more personal and gives them more buy-in to continue working on their own fall prevention skills.

 

Read Now: Basics for Effective Fall Prevention

Topics: active aging fall prevention balance training

4 Tips for Seniors to Maintain and Improve Balance

Talk to almost any senior about exercise and physical health and it likely won’t be long before they talk about a fear of falling. Falls become a major risk with every year one ages. For exactly this reason it is vital to prioritize balance and stability when training the senior population. Without the ability and confidence to walk comfortably, get on and off the floor, and move safely into and out of a seated position, seniors sacrifice a certain quality of life. On the contrary, improving balance and stability can dramatically increase the quality of life in senior populations. It’s easier to participate in more activities and socialize more if one is not nervous of stumbling or falling on the way there.

GettyImages-628029916I have found appropriate strength training to make a huge difference improving balance. Several regular attendees of our group fitness classes have remarked that they feel more stable while walking, that they feel more confident getting out of chairs or off of the floor, and that they feel their hips and leg muscles working more to stabilize their body while standing or walking. This improves confidence and allows them to walk further, perform more advanced exercise, and remain more active in their daily lives. Strength can be a life saver! Check out these four tips for seniors to maintain and improve balance:

1. Use your hips!

The entire lumbopelvic complex (core and hips) is helpful for full body balance. The more one improves their core and hip strength, the more these muscles can contribute to full body stability. In our group classes we perform sit to stands (standing up out of a chair), one leg balances (supported against a wall if necessary), seated leg extensions, seated or standing hip abductions, seated or standing marching, and many more exercises that strength train the hip complex to improve balance.

2. Walk more (as long as it feels good)

If you can walk comfortably and without pain, it won’t hurt to add a little extra walking to your daily routine. Every time we walk, we are training our balance as every muscle of our lower body has to constantly be stabilizing as we shift our weight from one foot to the other. Walking is one of the best and simplest exercises to perform and requires no equipment.

3. Stand when possible

Many exercises can be performed seated or standing. As long as you feel comfortable to perform exercises standing, you will be working your balance. Even exercise such as overhead presses or bicep curls will help improve balance as the hips and core need to be active while standing.

4. If you don’t use it you’ll lose it

One of the worse things we all witnessed during the strict COVID lockdown was the loss of physical ability. Daily physical movement that people took for granted was suddenly severely limited. Without a regular daily schedule it becomes very easy to pass the days with little to no physical activity. Many found that their strength, balance, mobility, and endurance had decreased over the course of the lockdown. The best way to avoid this is to find ways to practice balance throughout the day. We have already mentioned walking more, but practicing getting in and out of seated positions, practicing getting on and off the floor, and practicing exercise that help you improve balance will all be critical for maintain these abilities for as long as possible.

Let us know if you have any enjoyable or interesting ways to maintain and train balance! Is your community in need of balance programming? Check Balance Redefined below.

Learn more about our balance redefined programming

Topics: balance balance training balance training for seniors

How a Robust Fall Prevention Program Can Improve Residents Lives

Falls are a big concern for senior living communities. Given the well-known statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's easy to see why. The National Council On Aging provides compelling numbers as well. This is why we work so hard with our clients to establish robust, evidence-based, year-round programming that focuses on improving resident's balance and strength, as well as their self-confidence.  

One of the key elements for successful balance programming is drawing in as many residents as possible; we've found that the best way to accomplish this is through varied programming. It's not enough to simply put a balance class on the calendar. Communities have to take it one step further and offer other ways to interact.

Balance Redfined | NIFS Fall Prevention

NIFS Balance RedefinedTM programming offers everything from fitness testing to classes that teach participants how to safely get up from a fall. We've spent years evolving these services as we responded to resident suggestions and evaluated our program data.  Below are stories from residents whose lives have been positively impacted by the work our staff do.

Ms. Weigle

Despite losing her husband just a few days after they moved into the community, Ms. Weigle made a conscious choice to take that difficult first step out of their apartment to meet new neighbors, and within a few weeks someone invited her to try the Balance Class offered by the NIFS fitness center manager. She has been a faithful participant (and ambassador!) ever since and has expanded her lifestyle to include additional activities such as swimming, walking groups, gardening, and studying Spanish. 

Ms. Weigle takes her regular exercise so seriously that she’s told her family not to call in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because she will be in the pool. When asked, she’s proud to share that through repeat balance testing with the NIFS manager, she is seeing her scores improve.  At 87 years old, she thinks becoming steadier on her feet has helped her in other areas of her health. In fact, in a recent doctor’s visit, she was praised by her doctor for exceptional blood pressure, and she was pleased to share that ankle pain which had long bothered her was no longer a problem. 

[Read more:  Ms. Weigle's full story]

Mrs. Chapin

When Mrs. Chapin moved to her community about ten years ago, she wasn’t new to exercise. With a COPD diagnosis almost 20 years ago, she started swimming laps, and even though she hated to exercise, she kept at it because she knew it was crucial to helping her stay well with a chronic disease. But when she and her husband moved into their community, she took a break from regular exercise to engage in so many of the other opportunities provided. 

She watched her husband’s health gradually decline, so she nudged him to join her for a Balance class, and they were regulars up until his passing last year. Through that loss, Mrs. Chapin felt the support of the members in her class, and was able to keep attending regularly. The social support in NIFS balance programming has been a significant and  positive as she draws her social network from that group. Mrs. Chapin’s annual senior fitness evaluation confirms she’s on the right track with maintaining her balance, but more important than the numbers is how Mrs. Chapin feels. She told us that at 88 years old, she feels steadier than ever and she’s thrilled to still be sewing quilts and clothes, as well as painting, and serving on several resident committees all of which wouldn’t be possible if she wasn’t in good shape. 

Mr. Sadler

Mr. Sadler never used to exercise.  But when he moved to his community in 2009, his decision to start taking group fitness classes and using the pool proved valuable to overcome health challenges that were just around the corner. After a knee replacement surgery didn’t go as expected, he had to have the surgery reversed and replaced the joint with surgical concrete.  Not only did that “fix” leave him unable to walk, he lost significant healthy muscle tissue as well. Following his release from physical therapy, Mr. Sadler was only mobile by scooter or wheelchair and he stopped attending an annual family beach vacation.

He knew his only hope to return to more independence, and maybe to enjoying that annual family vacation again was to get back to a regular exercise routine. After working closely with the NIFS team at his community, he was able to regain significant strength and balance through careful water training. Eventually, he got back to land-based exercise as well and at 87 years old, he has resumed driving and walks confidently with a walker. In 2015, he joined his family again at the beach for their annual vacation. 

[Read more: Mr. Sadler's full story]

Mrs. Boelter

Mrs. Boelter was physical active as a regular water aerobics participant before she moved into her community in 2013.  She was also an avid walker and all of that has continued with the help of the NIFS staff at her community. As her Parkinson’s disease progresses, she feels the importance of maintaining her activity level even more and shared that through regular personal training with the NIFS manager, she has more energy throughout the day. But most noticeably, she is more able to get moving in the morning compared to her previous routine.

Mrs. Boelter noted that although she’s had a number of falls over the past 20 years since she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she’s had no major falls since she started working with the NIFS staff on her balance. She tells everyone at the community about the benefits of the classes and personal training; she’s a living testament to being able to maintain her independence with regular balance training offered at her community.

Mrs. Moore

Mrs. Moore has been active in the fitness center and with the NIFS staff at her community since she moved in 2004. More recently however, she participated in the NIFS Balance Challenge at the suggestion of the NIFS manager. Through a series of evaluations, education, and fun games, residents engaged in the Balance Challenge understand how to improve their balance as well as how to avoid and manage falls. 

New information on managing falls proved to be very timely for Mrs. Moore when she sustained a fall outside of the clubhouse. After she got her bearings, she was able to use skills she had learned from the NIFS manager during the Challenge to get up on her own without injury. She shared she’s been able to use what she learned through the program to stay active with gardening and to keep up with her grandkids too. She has also become an ambassador for all services connected with balance training at her community. 

[Read more: Mrs. Moore's full story]


It's really common for communities to have missed opportunities when it comes to providing comprehensive fall prevention programming. We can help you spot and fill those gaps to provide exactly what your residents need to feel steadier and confident on their feet. Click below for more information about a free consulting session with NIFS to jump start balance training at your community.

Find out more about a free consulting session with NIFS >

Topics: fall prevention balance training senior lliving balance redefined balance training for seniors

Balance Redefined: Residents benefit from dedicated balance classes

IMG_2730.jpgFall prevention. It's a big deal in senior living. When a resident falls, the costs can be significant for both the individual and the community. So it makes sense to have comprehensive programming that focuses on physical balance. And yet, whether we're consulting with a community or we've recently started managing their fitness program, it's really common to discover that even the most basic of opportunities to promote balance is missed when group fitness calendars lack dedicated balance classes.

The reality is that a comprehensive strategy to improve resident's balance involves so much more than a group fitness class on the calendar, and that’s why we take an approach that is both broad and deep to help decrease fall risk for residents in both independent and assisted living environments. But we have to begin at the beginning, and that means adding dedicated balance classes.

It's time to put dedicated balance classes on your calendar.

It's not enough to address balance training as a 20 minute segment in your strength class. Your Tai Chi class also isn't comprehensively handling your resident's need for improving their balance. The physiological mechanisms that have to work together to achieve optimal balance are complicated and they warrant their own dedicated class on the calendar. Without fail, when we've started with a new client and brought balance into the program in a more bold fashion, that specific class fills up quickly. A dedicated balance program provide substantial benefit to residents to help increase their confidence, and it allows your community to stand with your brand promise for an vibrant living backed with safety and security that is second to none.

[Related Content: How to Fall and Get Back Up Safely]

Essential elements of a successful balance class

In the last 15 years that we've been managing fitness centers in senior living communities, we've learned a lot about what works for the residents we're serving. Below are a few considerations as you look to enhance what you're offering.

  • If your population supports it, offer different levels of balance class so that all participants can be continually challenged. You likely work with residents who represent a range of physical capabilities; despite those differences, they all benefit from balance training, so build classes that can help even the most daring participants feel like they've worked hard.
  • Include elements of complex movement patterns where the core and lower body muscles are activated; add in brain fitness components that train participants to react both physically and mentally as they would in their everyday environment. Ideally, the classes should be designed with research-based movement patterns including the following:
    • Standing or sitting on an unstable surface
    • Keeping the eyes open or closed
    • Tilting the head in different positions
    • Turning the head or tossing a ball to respond to instructor commands
  • Consider the small equipment you have and how you can use it differently or commit small amount of the budget to buying additional items that will enhance balance classes. Balance pads, BOSU trainers, and weighted balls are all good additions.

[Related Content: Is Your Senior Fitness Program Challenging Enough?]

It’s not your typical march in place, balance on one foot and perform 10 squats type of class! It’s dynamic and just as mentally stimulating as it is physically for participants. If your fitness instructors or group class instructors aren't sure how to pull together a full class focused on balance, connect with us to find if consulting might benefit your exercise program.

Contact Us >

Topics: senior living communities balance training balance redefined

Balance Redefined: Creating experiences to engage residents in living well

ThinkstockPhotos-526312285.jpgWhen we first started talking about Balance Redefined inside our organization, our sole focus was on physical balance and the unique, wrap-around fall prevention programming we provide. But we knew that wasn't the stopping point for us. Because our work outside the fitness center serving as life enrichment directors for a variety of clients has demonstrated that living well extends way beyond an individual’s physical health, particularly for older adults.

We believe that wellness programming in your community should be diverse and built around the interest of your residents. The idea is to inspire residents to get involved and in order to do that, you have to know what makes the residents tick. You have to know what makes them want to get out of bed in the morning and what inspires them to invite their neighbors to join them. Filling the calendar is definitely more art than science; avoiding common pitfalls like order taking is tough. And ensuring there are very few sit-and-listen programs on the calendar requires discipline. But there are plenty of fun, engaging program ideas to go around.

[Related Content: Evaluate the quality of your wellness program]

Below are a few examples of programs created by our lifestyle staff that demonstrate our commitment to creating experiences to engage residents in balanced living.

How does your garden grow

Create a focus on gardening by using National Exercise in the Garden Day to host a balance class in/near the resident garden area. Emphasize the residents gardens by setting up a stand where residents to showcase/sell their produce to their neighbors. Provide a presentation from a master gardener with tips/benefits on organic gardening; it's possible you have residents who are trained as master gardeners who could provide this talk. Offer a series of short group fitness classes that are designed to prepare residents to be active in the community gardens. Host a themed garden party for happy hour.

Water, water everywhere

You might this theme would speak only to pool-based programming. Certainly, if your community has a pool, it should be a spotlight, but that's only one element in this robust program that deals with everything water. Start this programming with an event to teach residents about the importance of proper hydration; build a challenge encouraging them to drink enough water daily. Hold an aquatic ambassadors program to promote pool participation. Serve fresh seafood in your dining venues and showcase the origin and health benefits of the spotlighted menu items. Host a series of coffee talks with your a dietitian discussing the importance of fish in a balanced diet. Wrap the water themed programming up with a polar plunge, a luau, or a pool party.

Train your brain

Help residents engage their brains in less traditional ways by launching language courses from a nearby partner university. Add 15-minute meditation sessions following the weekly balance class; consider spotlighting other brain fitness programming you may have onsite (i.e., Dakim(R)). Build a brain teaser program that runs riddles/cluse on your community's CCTV where residents are invited to various areas of the community to find the answers. Run a museum marathon where the month's outings focus on area museums and special tours are provided by the museum staff. Spotlight brain-boosting foods on your dining menus, and offer coffee talks focused on memory-related disorders as well as what services you provide in-house from your memory care center.

If these programs sound delightful but you're not sure you could get them going in your community, consider connecting with us for wellness consulting. You can put our years of experience in senior living communities across the US to work in your organization to build better programming that speaks to resident passions and that engages staff across your organization for a more collaborative approach.

Are you ready to do wellness better? Learn more about wellness consulting.

Topics: balance training senior living wellness programs balance redefined

Weight-shifting exercises are key to fall prevention for residents

ThinkstockPhotos-590277470.jpgThe numbers are clear: about one-third of adults, ages 65 years and older, will sustain a fall this year. And the statistics that relate to the cost of falls are equally concerning. Because falls are a substantial risk in senior living communities, we focus a lot of attention on asking why residents fall and what can we do to prevent them. The results from a recent study provides us with some answers.


Study Shows What Causes Senior Falls

A 2014 observational study determined how and why falls occur in the aging population by actually videotaping falls in two long-term-care facilities between 2007 and 2010. The video cameras were placed in the common areas such as the dining rooms, hallways, and lounges. When a fall occurred it was reviewed with a focus on the actual cause of imbalance and the activity at the time of falling. The study captured 227 falls from 130 individuals. The researchers concluded that the most common cause of falls (41 percent) was incorrect weight shifting: basically, how an individual moves or transfers from one position to another.

Specifically, researchers noted that the majority of falls they recorded occurred in a position change from standing to walking. You see, staying balanced is about more than maintaining steady footing when in motion. The results of this study show that how we start moving can be much more crucial to staying in balance.

Read Now: Basics for Effective Fall Prevention

Weight-Shifting Exercises are Key to Fall Prevention

If the researchers are right, then we need to make sure our senior living fitness programs incorporate weight-shifting exercises for participants. Not only do these activities teach residents about how to understand their center of gravity, but they also help with coordination and provide opportunities for modest strength and endurance gains in the lower body muscles. When taught carefully, implementing weight-shifting exercise into a balance program can provide intentional focus on more precise movement which helps overall motor control.

Ideally, your community's fitness program is run by a qualified fitness professional who can provide a range of fitness services for seniors including customized exercises in group and individual settings for each resident's needs.

Is outsourcing fitness center management right for your community?

Fitness professionals can administer balance-training and weight-shifting exercises through one-on-one personal training sessions, group exercise classes, or with simple recommendations of exercises for a resident to include in her typical morning stretches. Trained staff can also provide field testing to help residents understand how they score on balance and other fitness tests so that they can work toward improvement with their tailored exercise regimen.

In case you don't have qualified staff on board, here are some examples of simple weight-shifting exercises for active older adults that can be taught by anyone in your community:

  • Side Sways: While seated in a chair or standing, place the feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Leading with the upper body, lean the body gently to the right while keeping both feet in contact with the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times in both directions. Watch a demo of the exercise.
  • Forward Steps: Standing with the feet together near a chair back or counter top to hold onto, take an exaggerated step forward with the right foot. Then take the necessary amount of steps to recover to a normal standing position. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then perform on the left leg. Watch a demo of the exercise.

For more great content like this, download our whitepaper on balance and subscribe to our blog:

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Topics: senior living senior fitness fall prevention balance training

Tips for Starting Balance Training in Senior Fitness

Balanced_older_womanYou might know that some of the basic elements your senior fitness workout program should include are weight training, cardio activities, and as much flexibility as possible. One element that needs special attention among the senior population is balance training. Training for balance has been considered a fourth recommendation from many organizations, and there has been a much bigger emphasis on balance training in senior wellness programs in recent years.

With balance training now a part of a strong recommendation for your daily workout routine, where do you start? What is balance training? These questions are pretty common among seniors, and the perfect place to start is with training. 

Following are some tips for starting and maintaining your new balance program—that is, if you have not already been working on balance.

Start with Assistance

Even if you feel like you are pretty surefooted, start light and use something to assist with your balance activities. Anytime you work balance, you are using muscles in your body that may cause your balance to become shaky. Once you are more acclimated to the balance activities and you are comfortable with progressing, try slowly releasing the assisting device or object to get more challenge from your balance activities.

Be Consistent

Anytime you start an exercise program, consistency will be important. The same rule applies here. When working on your balance, maintaining a three-day-per-week or five-day-per-week schedule will add up in no time. Consistency will train your mind, body, and muscles to improve your balance over time.

Modify and Vary Your Program

Again, when working on balance, be cautious with your modifications. Start with light modifications and progress with different activities. For a good list of modifications and additional balance exercises you can add to your balance program, click here.

Learn to Scale When Needed

Scaling a workout is something that many do, and when working with seniors, scaling is important. When you scale your workout, you are essentially changing something to make it more individualized. In other words, if standing on one foot is too easy for you when holding on to a sturdy chair, you should scale, if appropriate, by trying a single-leg stand without holding on to the chair.

Select Your Exercises

Starting your program should be slow. Start with about one or two balance exercises and progress as you feel necessary. Starting slow will progress you into a good program, but it will also help you take it slow (just like in other aspects of your training). When you start your balance program, hold your balance activities for about 20 to 30 seconds in each position and aim to complete about two or three sets. For a good amount of exercises and demos, consider the information here to help get you started on new balance training exercises.

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If you have any additional tips that worked well when you started a balance program, please leave some helpful hints in the comments below. If you found some things to work and others to not, we would like to hear your experiences.

Interested in how we provide balance training for seniors?  Check out our whitepaper, Advanced Balance Training Programs for CCRC Fitness Center by clicking below.

Download Now .

Topics: senior wellness programs balance senior fitness balance training exercise for elderly

What You Can Do to Keep Your Parents from Falling (Part 2 of 2)

senior_woman_balancingNow that the less obvious tips have been addressed in part 1 of this series, let’s dive into some physical approaches that you can guide your parents through. There are so many exercises that can be practiced in the comfort of their own home to improve stabilization, gain independence, and build confidence. Our last, but certainly not least, tip:

Get your parents active! Talk with your parents about what they are currently doing to stay active, whether it’s a lifestyle activity, like gardening, or an intentional exercise such as strength training. It is important for your parents to stay active through all areas of wellness, but for now, let’s focus on the physical to keep your parents from falling. Here are some exercises that you can coach your parents through to help with fall prevention:

  • One-Leg Stance: Stand  on one leg at a time for 20 seconds and then gradually increase the time as it becomes more comfortable. Start by holding on, and then try to balance with  your eyes closed or without holding on.
  • Tandem Stance (Heel to Toe): Stand on your toes for a count of 5, and then rock back on your heels for a count of 5. When comfortable, progress to a count of 10. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Hip Circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands on your hips. Make a big circle to the left with your hips, and then to the right. Repeat 10 times.
  • Abdominal Squeezes: Sit forward on a chair and sit up straight with shoulders back. Tighten your stomach for a count of 2 and relax. Repeat this 30 times, rest for 1 minute, and repeat 2 times.
  • Sit-to-Stand: Start by sitting in a hard, upright chair (like a breakfast or dining room chair) with your feet hip-width apart, ankles right below your knees, and toes pointing straight forward. Reach your hands out in front of you or place your arms across your chest and stand up. Then return to a sitting position. Make sure that you sit slowly and do not “plop down” in the chair. If needed, you can use the arms of the chair but focus on using your lower-body strength to stand upright. Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions. 
  • Tandem Walk: First, find a place where you can take forward steps with something next to you that can give touch support, like a countertop or the back of a couch. Start with your feet together with your side to the support surface. Standing tall, take forward heel-to-toe steps as if you were walking on a balance beam. Take 10 steps or walk until the end of your support surface, whichever comes first. Once you feel more comfortable with this, challenge yourself by walking heel-to-toe backward! Repeat 2 times.
  • Balance Stance with Eyes Closed: Stand with your feet together and arms across the chest. Keeping a tall posture, close your eyes and hold this position for about 20 seconds. As this gets easier, progress by increasing the amount of time by 5-second intervals.

If these exercises are too much at once, just pick a few to get your parents started. Once they are comfortable with that, begin introducing more at an appropriate pace. If they need to rely on holding onto a handle or surface to try these exercises, especially in the beginning, that is perfectly fine. Their safety comes first, but remember: falls can be prevented! What are you doing to help prevent your loved ones from falling?

Watch the Video: The Balance Challenge

Topics: senior living balance fall prevention balance training exercise for elderly

What You Can Do to Keep Your Parents from Falling (Part 1 of 2)

senior_balancingHave you noticed your parents sitting more and more? Throughout the aging process we tend to become less physically active, therefore decreasing our overall strength. This can lead to many health issues, including loss of balance and eventually falls. Falls in seniors are the number-one cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries. As we all know, the older we get, the harder it can be to recover from any type of injury, so let’s help mom and dad prevent what could potentially alter, or even take, their lives.

Prevention is the keyword. Take a look at these tips to see whether you can do anything for your parents before an accident occurs and you find yourself saying, “This could have been prevented.”

  • Speak with your parents about their overall health. Discuss medications and their side effects, as well as health conditions that could cause falls, such as eye or ear disorders. Some medications alone can cause dizziness, while others may have negative interactions when combined, and visual and vestibular impairments and disorders can be large culprits when it comes to falls. It is also important to keep open communication about previous or current falls. This can be embarrassing for the parent, so it is important that they understand that it is not a burden to you, nor should it be an embarrassment to them. Do not take any fall lightly, because not all injuries are obvious or can even be seen without medical testing.
  • Make an appointment or two. Encourage your parents to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss their overall health and risk of falls. If possible, ask to sit in on the appointment to help yourself better understand what you can do to motivate your parents to work on fall prevention.
  • Help your parents with a home safety checklist. This is as simple as checking your parents’ home for possible hazards that could cause a fall. For example, ditch the throw rug, remove electrical or phone cords from walkways, or add night lights in their bedroom, bathroom, and hallways. Refer to this CDC link for a comprehensive checklist.
  • Discuss possible upgrades to existing amenities in their home. Oftentimes, the bathroom can be an easy place to take a tumble, so find out how you can help prevent these types of falls. Speak with your parents about raised toilets, grab bars, and shower or tub seats. Refer here for a more complete list of safety care product suggestions for the bathroom.
  • Chat about whether their home is the best place for them. Is downsizing realistically a safer and more convenient environment? This can be a very hard and sensitive topic to discuss but could prevent issues down the road. Consider alternatives, such as smaller homes, condominiums, retirement communities, assisted living communities, etc. Making the decision may be difficult, but it is critical, and the change becomes much easier once they have adjusted. Check out this blog to read about the “Someday Syndrome” that keeps some seniors from making the move.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, where I give another important tip that can singlehandedly make a significant change in fall risks.  Check out our Balance Training Whitepaper for the importance of balance training for seniors.

Download Balance Training Whitepaper

Topics: senior living balance fall prevention balance training exercise for elderly