Our parking lot was icy this morning and I was very mindful of my balance. I know that a fall can be life-changing, especially as we get older. I broke my wrist a few years ago from a fall and became a statistic: one out of five falls causes a serious injury such as a broken bone or a head injury.

More than one out of three older people fall each year according to the National Council on Aging. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries which can be very serious, especially if the person is taking certain medication like blood thinners. An older person who falls and hits their head should seek medical attention right away to make sure they don’t have a brain injury.

More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling. Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures which, for some folks, results in death. Here in Minnesota, we have the nation’s fifth-highest rate of fall-related deaths.

Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker, actually increasing their risk of falling. Regular exercise and balance training both helps prevent falls and the fear of falling. Balance training has been shown to reduce falling risk by 50%. Doing exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance are your best bet for preventing a fall.

There are many options in our community where older adults can exercise, ranging from fitness clubs to the Pony Athletic Center (PAC) located next to the Stillwater Area High School. This affordable option has no initiation fee and no long term commitment. I joined last year when I was recovering from hip replacement surgery (not due to a fall, thank goodness) and it helped with my rehabilitation goals. 

PAC is open to the community at specified times and offers adult memberships at $10/month for track access only or $20/month for full access. This new facility offers an indoor walking/running track, weight room, cardio equipment, access to the gymnasiums and a stretching/resistance area.

Social interactions are good for preventing falls too. If you benefit from exercising with others, at Community Thread we offer group exercise classes. Aerobics is offered twice a week at each of our locations in Stillwater and Bayport. This popular one-hour class features cardiovascular conditioning exercises, strength training and balance movements. Classes are offered Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00 to 4:00 pm at the Stillwater Senior Center and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 10:30 am at the Bayport Senior Center for $4 per session (or $35 for a 10 session card).

Chair yoga classes will be offered starting Thursday, January 17 at the Bayport Senior Center. Classes will be done in a seated position and focus on gentle movements of the spine, shoulders and hips. Attendees will also learn to use deep breathing as a tool to relax the body and mind, increasing overall wellness and vitality. For people who have chronic health conditions, yoga has been proven to decrease pain and increase flexibility. All abilities are welcome. People may purchase the entire 8 class series for $40 or drop in for $8 per class. Please call 651-439-7434 to reserve the 8 class series. Space is limited.

You can reduce your risk of falling – the options are out there. Check them out and decrease your chances of becoming a statistic and losing your independence. Your family will thank you.

By: Sally Anderson