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Spring can lead to falls, so watch your step

Kristine Berey

May, 2010

Every year, one in three seniors experiences a fall, resulting in injury that may require hospitalization. While the resulting consequences from a fall can be dire, they can be prevented. Minimizing your risk while maximizing your strength is the key to fall prevention, experts say.

“One of the problems people tend to notice as they age is that they lose their balance more frequently,” Ruth Heidrich says in her book Senior Fitness. “The good news is that balance is a skill that can be trained and improved upon. Balancing exercises are the most effective means to help prevent falls.”

Risk factors include decreased muscle and bone strength, reduced vision and hearing, and unsafe conditions in and around the home, says Bill Green, social worker at the N.D.G. Senior Citizens Council and certified personal trainer. Green has conducted fall prevention programs for seniors.

“In the spring, we’re all a little bit deconditioned,” Green says. “People know they have to exercise, especially the lower body. Specific exercises around strength and balance are a great investment.”

For Green, fall prevention is a three-pronged approach. “You want to think about the individual, the environment and the behaviour.” He urges seniors to use whatever aids they need to keep them safe, whether it’s hearing aids or a walker or a cane. “For some of us, it’s really rough, some people really struggle with it. We all care about how we look at any age, but staying healthy and independent is more important.”

According to Health Canada, nearly half of all injuries among seniors happen at home. Green says the kitchen and bathroom can be particularly dangerous because of potentially slippery hard surfaces. “Sometimes we have rugs we love but which have curled-up edges that need to be taped down or a piece of furniture in the way that is a hazard but too much trouble to move, or carpets that are buckled throughout the home.”

Green says that making a home safe means minimizing clutter, but while that may be obvious, it’s not so easy to accomplish. “People get attached to their surroundings, there are stories behind stuff, but they must ‘get real’ about the situation. Staying at home is more important.”

Stephanie Dupont co-ordinates a fall prevention program for autonomous seniors over 65 at the CSSS Cavendish. Like Green, she encourages seniors to be vigilant when outdoors and watch out for cracks and debris on the sidewalks.

“We encourage people to be sure their shoes have anti-slip soles,” Dupont says. She urges seniors to be aware of sidewalk conditions, whether it is crowded or too windy. “When crossing the street, use the dip in the sidewalks meant for wheelchairs to minimize the depth of the step, rather than stepping off the curb, which is not always at a predictable height.”

She says the paint that marks crosswalks can be very slippery when wet.

“The city is aware of this and some cities are changing the paint they use.”

Should you fall, go to a clinic or call 811 to speak with health professional.

To enroll in fall prevention classes at CSSS Cavendish, call Stephanie Dupont at 514-484-7878, ext. 1501. For specific fall prevention tips, visit Health Canada at



At May 17, 2010 at 4:32 PM , Anonymous Mary Stark said...

Great article, as it is an important topic. We have fall prevention courses at Contactivity Centre in Westmount too. It's the same fall prevention course that the CSSS Cavendish offers, and it's funded by the Public Health Department so it's free. We get very positive feedback from participants, who find they have more confidence, more muscle strength and better balance after taking the twelve-week course. Congratulations on highlighting this important issue.


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