That which does not kill us makes us stronger. — Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)
Well, UpGraders, with due respect to the esteemed German philosopher, I’m going to have to disagree. While Nietzsche’s observation may have some validity, the oft-repeated quip is far from having universal application.
In fairness to Nietzsche, it looks like he only lived to be 56 years old, so he never had the opportunity to be an UpGraded Senior. Had he been given that opportunity, he might well have re-thought his famous quote.
Let’s face it, you’re not going to get much stronger or do much upgrading if you’re laid up in the hospital with a broken hip – even if it doesn’t kill you (which it might).
The Legend Of The Falls
One out of five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury, but the four who don’t die can hardly be said to benefit from Nietzsche’s wisdom by becoming stronger.
In fact, one in three adults who were living independently before their hip fracture found it necessary to remain in a nursing home for at least a full year after the injury.
According to a 2011 AARP article:
. . . a year after fracturing a hip, 90 percent of those who needed no assistance climbing stairs before the fracture will not be able to climb five stairs; 66 percent won’t be able to get on and off a toilet without help; 50 percent won’t be able to raise themselves from a chair; 31 percent won’t be able to get out of bed unassisted; and 20 percent won’t be able to put on a pair of pants by themselves.
It’s not a pretty picture and is a rather direct rebuke of Nietzsche’s statement.
Let’s look at some more stats related to falls and seniors, this time from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC):
- For older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.
- One out of three adults age 65 or older falls every year.
- In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries to older adult were treated in emergency departments and over 662,000 of them resulted in hospitalization.
- In 2010, about 21,700 older adults died from fall injuries.
- Men are 40% more likely than women to die from a fall based on 2010 information.
- The direct medical costs of falls in 2010 was $30 billion.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
- In 2000, 46% of fatal falls among seniors were the result of traumatic brain injuries.
- Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.
- Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.
What Should UpGraders Do?
OK, enough with the bad news and scary stats. What can we, as UpGrading Seniors, do to be sure we don’t become a part of these statistics?
There are the obvious things recommended for seniors, like:
- getting rid of clutter around the house
- making sure you have adequate lighting
- repairing potholes in your yard
- removing small throw rugs over which you may trip
- installing handrails in the bath or shower
- avoid wearing bifocals when walking, especially on stairs
- not riding your bike shortly after an ice storm! 😉
- not attempting to walk a slackline (yours truly is routinely ignoring this one and will continue to do so for reasons explained below)
All of the foregoing recommendations are sound, but for us UpGrading Seniors, here’s what I think really makes the difference:
- Get up off your rear and stay active. You lose balance, strength and coordination through inactivity.
- Engage in strength training regularly (don’t give me that “I’m too old excuse”), with emphasis on your hips, legs and ankles.
- Participate in activities that train and improve your balance and coordination. Yoga, tai chi and ballroom dancing come to mind.
- Affirmatively incorporate activities into your routine specifically to enhance your balance and coordination and to strengthen all the little muscles required for excellent balance.
The last recommendation is why I bought and use my slackline. I think it’s a remarkable tool to develop balance and coordination, but I’ll put my caveat here.
It’s a high risk activity. I fully recognize that I could become one of those hip fracture statistics I quoted above by messing around on the slackline. On the other hand, if I am able to avoid an early injury, I am convinced that developing the skill to walk the slackline will significantly reduce the likelihood that I will suffer a fall-related injury during my normal, day-to-day activities.
Oh, did I mention it’s also a lot of fun? Anyway, I am not recommending slacklining for most seniors. If you choose to try it, be careful and do so at your own risk. It’s what I would consider advanced balance training. There are some videos below demonstrating basic and intermediate balance training methods, which are more than enough to greatly improve your odds of avoiding a fall.
The Bottom Line
The take home point I really hope to make with this article is the following. Falls pose a serious threat to our UpGrading goals. One careless moment could easily take us out of action for years – maybe permanently.
To avoid this dire possibility, we should do all we can to avoid a fall. So, don’t allow you legs to get so weak and your coordination so poor that you become a fall looking for a place to happen. Stay active. Stay strong, and don’t do anything stupid – like slacklining 😉 . I’ve posted some videos below which demonstrate some training methods you can use to begin improving your balance and coordination.