Recently, the YMCA in my town put on a series of exciting lectures on the subject of BALANCE, as in: have you got it? Have you lost it? Are you scared ? And the answer is–it depends.
Swimming was my passion. When I was very young, in the summertime you would find me at Coleman’s Park, teaching little kids to swim, jackknifing off the high board, doing the back flip on the lower board, and swimming until the park closed. One summer, some fifty years later in the beautiful pool on the Walt Disney World Floridian hotel resort property, I jumped in to swim under water, and nearly drowned.
I could not swim any more. The damage to my spine was now permanent. Some people may lose their shirt, or they may lose their teeth, or their hair. This day I knew that I had lost my balance as I had known it.
The classes I attended was designed to help you get your balance back, if possible. Even if we will not again tippy-toe on a high wire, there are measures to improve what little, if any ability we have to stand upright or ride a bike, or dance, etc. But not to swim underwater for me again.
Everybody who attended the course had a history of falling. (A few years ago, I fell more than 20 times; mostly in the park, walking my grand-puppy Marley). I have had lots of black and blue places and sore muscles, so now I cannot walk Marley anymore. My falls were mainly on soft earth, or a foot of snow. However, each of the rest of the class members had suffered a bone break. I did not break a bone [yet], but we all know it could still happen. A fall of any kind at our age is scary.
We students all had the same complaint: we have a fear of falling. It affects us all the time. Our quality of life is diminished. We carry this fear to a greater or lesser degree throughout the day. Women who once balanced on spiked heels now tread cautiously on Nikes or New Balance sneakers, and they likely ever will again. Men walk slowly, where once they walked briskly.
Falling, for the senior set, is an extremely major problem. However, it should not be accepted as a natural part of growing old. It also doesn’t mean that an older person cannot take care of himself or herself. But we must tell our physician that we are having this problem. By the time he or she finds out when the metal rod is being inserted into our hip, they’ve likely figured that out
The thing is, worrying about falling makes it harder to push through our fears about falling. We were taught to replace our fears with first, constructive ideas. “I can’t make it up those steps without losing my balance,” etc… So It’s time to play mind games on ourselves. “I haven’t fallen down these steps before..If I take my time, hold onto the rail, watch where I am going –Bob’s Your Uncle!” Thinking positively, you increase your chances of success. You are thinking confidence-building thoughts.
It doesn’t hurt to keep physically fit either. My back is always hurting; ask my daughter-she hears me complain enough. (What can I say? It hurts, and I am trying to NOT take meds for everything-Wait til these young people grow old!) However, I must tell you that I take my steps a lot more gingerly, and yes, I TRY to exercise as much as possible. Besides, after exercise I am in a much lighter mood. I do not have small area rugs in my house I had my eyes checked. I try to get enough sleep. I watch that I do not walk on ice, and so on. If you take a course on balance, you will reap the rewards a hundredfold.
There are loads of organizations besides the national council on aging that focus on this imbalance problem; for example the Arthritis Foundation, (1-800-568-4045), the National Safety Council (630-285-1121); or, get a video called Be Bone Wise Exercise from the National Osteoporosis Foundation (Exercise Video 202-223-2226). There are many ways to improve your balance folks, so go forth and learn. I did.