Staying healthy as we age takes extra care. Even during ‘usual’ times, staying healthy means paying attention to how we move our bodies and how often. Keeping our mind stimulated and sharp, as well as maintaining social connections and a sense of purpose in our life, all require attention and effort.
During a pandemic, like the one we are experiencing now, these daily practices become all the more important. The restrictions on how we go about our normal routines, and where we can go, can challenge and interrupt our normal strategies for maintaining health, placing us at higher risk of illness or injury. It has likely become a lot harder to get a daily walk in, attend an exercise class, or be active out in the community. Preliminary data has shown that the decrease in activity levels of older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in fall-related fractures by 50-67%, likely due to deconditioning that comes from inactivity.
Preventing a fall is as important as ever. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has extended National Fall Prevention Awareness Day, normally the first day of fall, to a full week of fall risk awareness. This year, the week runs September 21st through 25th. In support of this national endeavor, Providence experts will offer educational classes focused on aging well, staying mobile, and reducing the risk of a serious fall. For the first time, these classes will be available online as webinars to help keep everyone safe.
All events are free and open to anyone. Please encourage your friends or family to attend.
Webinars will include a short introduction to Tai Chi, which has been found to reduce fall risk in half when practiced regularly.
Those who register will have access to the class handouts. Visit providence.org/classes or call 503-574-6595 or 800-562-8964.
As stated by the NCOA, “The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot of things. One thing that’s still the same? Falling is NOT a normal part of aging. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling and staying and safe during the pandemic:
The stay at home orders have restricted our normal activities. Being more creative and conscious about how you maintain your activity during the pandemic is essential. Still try to get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of aerobic activity—any movement that increases your heart rate. Examples include: walking, gardening, moderate housecleaning, and walking the stairs.
Being active is great, but not enough. Strength training and balance practice should be part of your regular exercise routine at least twice a week, in order to combat the loss of muscle mass and balance coordination that comes with normal aging. More restrictions on our activity during a pandemic makes this more essential. Examples include: Tai Chi (an ancient martial art), yoga, and weight lifting. Check out a list of online resources at: https://coronavirus.providence.org/blog/uf/610004043. Many gyms, community centers, and senior centers also are now offering online programming for these types of classes.
Regular vision and hearing checks, as well as regular visits to your primary care provider, can identify changes that may influence your overall health early before they become harmful. Medical offices are open and available to see you in a variety of formats (virtual, phone, in person) depending on your needs. Don’t delay preventative care; it’s important.
Not only have falls resulting in fractures increased during the pandemic, but a much larger percentage of these fall-related injuries are occurring at home. Now is great time to review your home’s safety with a self-assessment (https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/check_for_safety_brochure-a.pdf), or request a physical or occupational therapist evaluate your home’s safety by asking your provider for a home safety evaluation.
Social connection is an essential human experience and it becomes more critical as you age. Maintaining social contact is more challenging now than ever. Make plans to call friends or family weekly or have them call you. Try using a virtual video connection so you can visit with your loved ones face-to-face even if you are not with them in person. Meet a friend for a socially-distanced walk and remember your masks. Maintaining social connections can help improve your mood, reduce stress and depression, especially during difficult times.