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Joel Prostick, the Founder of Pioneer Athletes, has collaborated with Dr. Daniel Berinstein, M.D., a world-renowned Retina Specialist and Vitreoretinal Surgeon, on the subject of how seniors can avoid catastrophic falls. Here are their findings:
It is important for everyone, doctors and patients alike, to understand why the sense of balance is impaired in older people. When younger people change their field of view, up or down, side to side, or at an angle, their eyes adjust immediately to the new horizontal, vertical, or at an angle axis. When older people change their field of view or simply close their eyes while turning, their eyes don’t adjust immediately. It takes a fraction of a second. It is during this fraction of a second that they can lose their balance.
So why is it important that your elderly patients understand how their sense of balance is impaired? I give you 5 situations, in order of importance.
1) If you are taking a shower and you get soap in your eyes and quickly turn around without holding on to anything, you will fall, and it will be a catastrophic fall. Your life will never be the same. If you do not have a soap dish with a handle that is easily reachable, it is imperative that you install a bar at approximately shoulder height. It could be at any angle to accommodate more than one person, but must be very stable.
2) If you are walking on stairs, up or down, it is important that you hold on to a railing, if possible. If you are walking on stairs, up or down, and there isn’t a railing or you are carrying an object that requires both hands, be sure to stare straight in front of you (i.e. do not change your field of view). If the stairs have a landing, turn slowly on the landing. Ignoring any of this can easily result in a fall.
3) If you are walking outside, in a mall, or in your house, always be aware of your field of view. If it changes, pause for a fraction of a second before continuing. This will help you avoid a fall.
4) Similarly, when you are on a treadmill, you must be careful to look straight in front of you and not change your field of view. You must not let anyone or anything distract you. Depending upon the speed you are going, a fall off a treadmill may be worse than a fall on the stairs.
5) When you are walking in the dark, it is best that you walk with your feet a few inches further apart than normal. This will keep you from falling or banging into the walls of narrow hallways. Some people find this is helpful when walking on stairs with no railing or when carrying an object with both hands.
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Check out more interesting content on our Seniors Page if you are a Senior, know a Senior, or would like to become a Senior.