Falls are a serious health concern for Canadians 65 years and older as each year one in three seniors has a fall. For the seniors who break a large joint, such as a hip, the fall can be life changing as they may never walk unassisted again. Although age brings an increased risk of falling, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
The first and most important step is to keep active. Daily activity, whether you participate in a formal exercise program or sport, run errands on foot, or work in the garden, helps to maintain the muscles in your feet and lower limbs and improve your balance. Exercise is important at all stages of life so make sure it remains part of your daily routine as you age.
Wearing proper supportive footwear, both inside and outside the home, also plays an important role in fall prevention. Supportive, proper fitting shoes increase balance and stability which in turn reduce the risk of falling. Although it is tempting to wear a comfortable pair of soft, loose slippers at home, slippers don’t provide any support and fall off easily, particularly on stairs, possibly causing you to trip. As we age painful foot conditions such as arthritis, foot ulcers, bunions and hammertoes become more common, making slippers an even more tempting choice. However, replace your slippers with a supportive pair of comfortable, indoor shoes to increase your balance and stability. Be sure to look for shoes with a wide toe box and no irritating seams running across tender areas as well as laces or Velcro fasteners so you can adjust the fit. Most importantly look for shoes with non-stick soles.
Walk through your home and look for tripping hazards. Get rid of loose throw rugs that slide when you walk on them or have edges you can trip over. If you have clutter on the floor put it away. Also consider increasing your lighting so that you can clearly see where you are walking.
If you are experiencing foot or lower limb pain, don’t assume it is a natural part of aging and something you have to live with. Painful lower limbs throw off your balance and reduce your ability to lead a healthy active life so you should address it right away. Ask your family doctor for a referral to a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. Your Canadian Certified Pedorthist will conduct a full assessment of your lower limbs and recommend ways to reduce your pain and increase your mobility.
By Meghan Knox, C. Ped (C), Guelph, Ontario