Fear of Falling

What me?

Captain of the basketball team in high school?

Field hockey half-back?

Tennis player all through the years my children were growing up and

What ME falling?

And it has only taken two times in the last 2 years including yesterday
tripping on some bright orange low hanging construction tape while
walking happily to breakfast with my daughter and son visiting from LA on
17th street.

Finding myself lying in the sharp dry dirt beside the sidewalk not knowing
how I got there – discovering the bleeding on my left forearm where the
scrape moved my very thin skin to reveal an open wound and instant
swelling of my arm, I hear myself say “yes, I’m OK” while I am slowly
becoming aware of where I am and what has happened.

I tend to say I’m OK as a first response before noticing whatever pains me.

The more I share this event with my women friends 70 plus – the more I
realize we all wish to deny our fear of falling while realizing we are
beginning to fear falling.

Holding onto railings.

Looking at each step as we descend.

No longer trusting our peripheral vision.

Not believing it’s a BALANCE issue, but understanding it’s about not
seeing the full context of where we are in space.

I tripped on that orange construction tape – bright orange to capture my
attention, yet I didn’t even see it.

How is this possible?

Is it my mind? my vision? my body?

What kind of loss is this?

From whence does it come?

Is fear of falling playing any role in and of itself?

Loss of confidence in how I move?

I have never experienced this before.

This is new.

And the left side of my body hurts.

And I wish to heal and feel the ease and grace of movement as I did just a
year ago.

I found a lot of material on the internet on this subject from various
disciplines and decided on the following from Senior Planet:

Why We Fear Falling
When a person fears falling, that fear likely stems at least in part from their
own estimate of their balance and gait, …If you think your balance or gait is
poor, you might be underestimating yourself — or you may have good
reasons. For instance, …some medications can cause weakening fatigue, low
blood pressure may have a dizziness side effect and poor vision can make the
edges of steps look blurry.
That’s why the place to start investigating a fear of falling is with your
physician. “A qualified health professional can determine whether the fear is
due to an accurate estimation of your risk of falling or is excessive,”…

Who’s Most at Risk?
The generally accepted explanation of how fear actually leads to falling
among older people goes like this: When you are afraid of falling, you tend to
limit your physical activity. For a while that strategy works, but eventually,
restricting activity leads to a loss of muscle strength, endurance and mobility
— three things that make you vulnerable to falling.

Research shows that fear of falling is pervasive among seniors. A University
of Kansas study of 926 people age 65 and older found that nearly half had
some fear of falling, and 65 percent of those fearful folks had restricted their
activity as a result. But 70 percent of those who feared falling had not
actually had a fall in the year preceding the study.

In the study, women were more likely to express fear of falling, and the fear
became more common with increasing age. Physically, those with the greatest
fear were also weaker, walked more slowly and felt less in control of their
lives. And people who were slower and less confident also tended to restrict
their activity.

A New Mind-Body Theory
Researchers have found that being afraid you might fall directly affects your
balance. When older people are in a situation that threatens balance — say,
having to walk on a raised platform as part of a lab test — they adopt a
“stiffening strategy.” This is a reflex-like tightening of the major muscle

groups of the lower leg, and the entire perceptual system is affected, too.
When people are afraid of falling, “They produce fewer eye movements to get
the information they need when walking. Also, anxiety reduces their ability to
remember things about their walking path,”…

Consequently, when we’re nervous about falling, our range of motion
becomes smaller, our strides are shorter and our pace is slower — a
combination of events that can lead to a fall.

Researchers have also found that when older people are anxious about
falling and try to do two things at once, like walking and talking, their
balance and gait become less stable.

So hold on tight.
Remember to look around.
It’s OK to move more slowly.
Slowing down has its perks.
We get to appreciate the moments more
and the beauty that surrounds us.
It’s a new pace which we do not have to judge or compare.
All we need to do is pay attention to what our bodies are showing us and
telling us.
Attention must be paid.

Article submitted by Ruth Neubauer

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