(BPT) - The occasional fall or wobble happens. As we age, though, we can face new physical changes that make falling a more frequent — and dangerous — event. According to the National Institute on Aging, more than one in four people 65 years or older fall each year. Stiff joints and muscles, slower reaction time, reduced peripheral awareness and other changes can increase the risk of falls. Aside from being painful or embarrassing, falls that occur later in life can also impact our long-term health. Those stiff muscles are more likely to be sprained and strained, and with osteoporosis — a disease that makes bone weak that also coincides with aging — falls may even result in a broken bone.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do that can both help prevent falls and build the resilience to render them a mere stumble. September is Fall Prevention Awareness Month, and now is a great time to look into ways to prevent and minimize the impact of falls. Taking advantage of savings and benefits with your memberships such as AARP member benefits can help make it even easier.
1. Build Balance and Strength
When it comes to fall prevention, physical activity can build muscle strength and keep joints, tendons and ligaments flexible. This is especially important to prevent age-related loss of muscle mass (known as sarcopenia) and problems with balance and gait, which are all risks for falling (NIH).
Balance and strength-training exercises such as yoga, Pilates and tai chi are great options, or you can also try lifting weights or using resistance bands to build strength. Mild weight-bearing activities such as walking or climbing stairs offer additional benefits such as slowing bone loss from osteoporosis.
Physical therapy is another great way to build strength and stability, as a therapist can evaluate areas of weakness and guide you through a combination of mobility, strengthening, flexibility and balancing exercises to correct them. You can even do so without ever leaving home. AARP® Physical Therapy at Home™ by Luna provides access to highly experienced physical therapists who come directly to you. Luna employs physical therapists who specialize in preventing falls and treating balance disorders as well as a multitude of other conditions.
AARP members and non-members alike can receive at-home physical therapy from Luna. Most insurances and Medicare are accepted by Luna. A prescription may not be needed to start.
2. Check Your Eyes
Poor vision is one of the more obvious risks for falls (e.g., missing a step, not seeing an obstacle) but even small changes in sight are linked to an increased risk of falling. Getting your eyes checked regularly can ensure that your prescription is up to date and your eyes are monitored for more serious conditions. Learn about vision care options that are available to you through your AARP member benefits, as they are designed to make it easier to get regular eye exams as well as glasses.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that prescription glasses or contacts are up to date. AARP® Vision Discounts provided by EyeMed help make it even easier. Members and their families receive exclusive discounts at participating retailers and independent provider locations nationwide, as well as online. You save 50% on prescription lenses with the purchase of a frame at LensCrafters, 30% on a complete pair of glasses (frames and lenses) at Glasses.com, and an additional $10 on a complete pair at Target Optical.
3. Check Your Ears
Hearing plays a significant role in our ability to balance. The inner ear is where our hearing system and balance organs both reside. Sometimes, when something is wrong with one, it can affect the other. Because of this, some physicians recommend a hearing test for those who are having dizziness and balance issues.
More broadly, the inability to hear something or someone out of your line of vision can make you more likely to trip and fall. A hearing aid can help. With AARP® Hearing Solutions™ provided by UnitedHealthcare® Hearing, members can save up to 20% on hearing aids and 15% on accessories, plus receive a no-cost hearing test and personalized support through a large nationwide network of hearing providers to make sure you’re hearing loud and clear.
4. Track Your Medications
Dizziness and balance issues may be symptoms or side effects of certain health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid issues, nerve problems and more. If you’re taking physician-prescribed medications to treat these conditions, missing a dose or accidentally taking too much may increase dizziness and balance issues.
Hero Health is an all-in-one medication management platform designed to help make managing medications easier and more convenient for any health condition. You can set your medication schedule in Hero’s mobile app, load up to a 90-day supply of 10 different medications, and receive alerts from Hero’s smart dispenser. AARP members receive an 8% discount and no initiation fee when they register for a Hero subscription.
5. Make Your Space Safer
Eliminating fall risks, such as rickety steps or weak support bars, around your home is an invaluable exercise. While these steps can help you avoid injury, making the updates yourself could put you at risk of one. Hire a professional or find an experienced friend who can do it for you, safely and affordably.
At the End of the Day, Be Prepared
These suggestions are just a few simple ways to reduce the risk of falls. Of course, even the most well-prepared can still trip and tumble, so if you do fall, stay calm, get up slowly and if you need assistance, ask.
In-home caregivers are a great way to ensure someone is always there to help you get up safely. Caregivers can provide an extra level of support and assist with routine activities that can be a fall risk including running errands, exercise, bathing or using transportation.
And with Carelinx, AARP members have access to pre-screened, professional caregivers and receive a 3% discount on in-home caregiving services. Whether it’s for a few hours or every day, this network of caregivers can provide personalized care to help with your daily life.
For additional reassurance, Lifeline offers medical alert systems with automatic fall detection.
At home or on the go, users wear a device that can sense if a fall has occurred and connect them to help. AARP members save 15% on medical alert service and get free shipping and activation. You can choose the service option that fits your lifestyle and get fast, 24/7/365 access to help when you need it.
To find more resources on how AARP member benefits can help you reduce your fall risk, visit aarp.org/benefits.
AARP member benefits are provided by third parties, not by AARP or its affiliates. Providers pay a royalty fee to AARP for the use of its intellectual property. These fees are used for the general purposes of AARP. Some provider offers are subject to change and may have restrictions. Please contact the provider directly for details.