As adults age, there are many physical changes that happen to the body. For example, we start to lose strength and balance, and our reflexes slow down. These effects of aging can make it easier for seniors to trip or slip and make it more difficult for them to regain balance after they start to fall.
However, there are some simple home exercises that can help prevent senior falls by increasing strength, balance, and reflexes. Implementing a daily regimen with these exercises should help seniors as well as their families worry less about the possibility of a senior fall.
How to Start
It’s always best to start with a warm-up so that seniors are well-stretched and prepped to start the routine.
These are a few exercises to warm up with:
- Have them breathe in through the nose, then lift their arms above their head to stretch. Then, they can lower their arms, and breathe out.
- For shoulder rolls, they can gently rotate the shoulders up to the ceiling, backward, and down. Then they can try this movement in reverse. They will gently rotate the shoulders up to the ceiling, forward, and down.
- For leg stretches, have them stretch one leg behind them, with one foot flat on the floor and their toes facing forward. They will gently bend the front knee until there is a stretch in the calf. Have them hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times with each leg.
- To march in place, make sure they stand with a chair or near a wall for support. Standing in a corner will also work. They will stand with their feet slightly apart (as one would normally stand) and arms at the side. Then, they will simply march in place, lifting the knees high toward the ceiling.
Exercises that Improve Balance
With balance exercises, it’s very important that seniors have something stable to hold on to and that they only increase the difficulty when they’re sure it’s safe. These exercises can be done while holding onto something with two hands, then one hand, then two fingers, and then eventually, some seniors may be able to do the exercises with no hand support at all.
Try these exercises with something stable to hold onto for safety:
- Toe-heel balance – Seniors will hold onto something stable with both hands, then stand on their toes and hold that position for 10 seconds. After that, have them rock back to their heels, holding that position for 10 seconds. Repeat about 5 times.
- Hip circles – While holding onto something stable, without moving the shoulders or feet, they will make 5 big circles to the left with their hips (counterclockwise) and repeat the same to the right (clockwise).
- Heel-toe walking – Have the senior stand with their left side toward the kitchen counter, and use the counter for balance if needed. They will then place the heel of their left foot in front of their toes of their right foot so the heel and toes touch. Have the senior focus on a spot ahead of them, and take a step so that their right heel touches the toes of their left foot. Work up to 20 steps. Seniors can also turn around and go in the other direction, with the counter on their right.
Exercises that Help to Build and Maintain Strength
Strength training is important at any age, but it’s especially important as we get older. Using a wall, counter, or table for balance support, seniors can try incorporating the following exercises into their daily routine. It’s best to increase difficulty at a gradual rate, so seniors can start doing the exercises a few times a week, and then increase the amount as they gain strength.
Try these exercises to start:
- Leg bends – Have the senior start by bending one knee so their foot comes up behind them and is level with their knee. Then, they will slowly lower their foot to the floor. Repeat, using the other leg.
- Knee bends – While holding onto something stable, the senior will stand with their knees relaxed and their back straight. The knees should face the same direction as their toes. Have them slowly bend their knees, then raise their body by straightening their knees.
- Heel raises – Start by having the senior rise up onto their toes. Hold for a few seconds. Then, they will slowly lower their heels to the floor.
The more seniors practice these exercises, the more their strength and balance will increase, and the more they will be equipped to avoid a fall. As a caregiver, you can support the senior in your life by encouraging them to keep doing these exercises on a regular basis, and you can also be there as they do them so that they feel a bit safer.
You could also hire a home care agency serving Raleigh, NC and the surrounding areas, such as Aware Senior Care, to come in and help implement these exercise routines and other services that can help prevent senior falls. Our caregivers are highly trained and happy to help encourage the senior in your life to keep up with their exercises and lend support while they complete them.