City campaigns for elderly fall prevention

September 30, 2010 3:16:02 PM PDT
Can you see the effects of a broken hip in Susan Sandler's walk? If not, it is the result of hard work since she fell this past February.

"I landed on my side and was able to raise myself to my feet but I could not take a step," Sandler said.

The fall, the fracture and the surgery to pin her hip are all the target of a citywide campaign to prevent falls in older adults, who are more likely to fall and get injured.

"Problems with vision and balance can increase risk of falling, said Dr. Matthew Hepinstall of the Lenox Hill Hospital, "and weak bones and the absence of fat to pad the fall can contribute."

The city's campaign supports strength and balance exercises to counteract these issues. Tai chi is an excellent way to combine the two. It is gentle, easy for older people to do, and builds muscle and coordination. A physical training program for balance and exercise works too.

It is helpful to have a coach show you some exercises in the gym, but make sure you put together a home program to keep yourself strong in the long run, such as leg lifts with ankle weights.

Also, check your vision and your glasses once a year to see obstruction in the home, such as a lose throw rug, and get rid of them or tack them down. Keep the path to the bathroom at night clear of objects and keep potentially dark areas well lit.

Sandler worked hard to stay independent.

"I stayed motivated by wanting to do my errands for myself, having my own independence and not relying on other people to do things for me," said Sandler.

Medications can make people dizzy and if that is a problem, ask your doctor to change them to different ones. Tai chi classes may be given at a local YMCA or a senior center, but physical therapy exercises need a doctor's subscription.

For more information about the city's new fall prevention program, visit by clicking here.