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The Silver&Fit(R) Program Offers Four Tips to Help Older Adults Prevent Falls

Improving Your Strength and Balance Are Keys to a Fall-Free Future

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| Source: American Specialty Health

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 19, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- You think it won't happen to you: a serious slip on the stairs or a fall on the sidewalk, but, before you know it, you're down.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal hospital admissions among older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, every 15 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency room for an injury related to a fall.

The chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall increase significantly with age. After age 65, one in three Americans falls each year.

"Falls can cause serious injuries for anyone, but they can be especially harmful for older adults who may already be fragile," said Mary Jane Osmick, M.D., vice president and medical director of medical services for American Specialty Health (ASH), a national health services company that provides the Silver&Fit® Exercise and Healthy Aging program. "Hip and wrist fractures, head injuries, traumatic brain injuries and internal organ injuries can all result from falls. Fortunately, many falls are preventable. We encourage aging adults to be proactive and take steps to prevent falls."

Studies show that a combination of health and safety interventions can significantly reduce falls among older adults. Experts from the Silver&Fit Exercise and Healthy Aging program recommend that you take time during Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 22-28th, to do the following:

1. Ask Your Doctor to Perform a Fall Risk Assessment
Certain medications, hearing deficits, vision loss and loss of physical strength can all impact your ability to prevent a fall. Have your doctor assess your risk of falls. He or she will review your medications to determine if they have any side effects that can make you dizzy, sleepy or less alert. Share your concerns about your balance and any fears of falling to see what recommendations your doctor may have to help improve your safety and mitigate your concerns.

2. Begin a Regular Exercise Program
Exercise is key in lowering your chances of falling; it makes you stronger and can improve balance and coordination. Try exercises like Tai Chi, Pilates or yoga, or join exercise classes such as the Geri-Fit® Strength Training Workout for Older Adults, which is geared toward increasing strength in the core of your body. A strong core has a direct impact on improving balance, gait and strength.

3. Make Your Home Safer
Nearly 50 percent of all falls happen at home, so make your home safe!

  • Remove clutter and items you can trip on, such as shoes, books and step-stools, from your main walkways (halls, stairs, bathrooms and doorways).
  • Replace throw rugs that slip or slide with non-slip rugs. Replace any rugs with worn or turned up corners that can cause you to trip.
  • Use non-slip shower mats in the bathtub and non-slip mats on bathroom floors.
  • Install grab bars in the shower or tub area and next to the toilet. Install handrails down hallways and on all staircases.
  • Keep items you use often in lower cabinets so you can reach them without using a step-stool. Make sure you have something to hold onto if you climb on a step-stool or ladder, and be sure someone is nearby in case you fall and need help.
  • Wear shoes with soles that grip. Don't wear shoes or slippers that are ill-fitting or flop on your feet.
  • Keep pets out of your path. Dogs and cats can get under foot quickly and cause you to fall, resulting in serious injury to both you and your pet.
  • Boost the lighting in your home. As you get older, you may need brighter lights to see well. Increase the wattage of your light bulbs or use more lights. Install motion detector nightlights in bedrooms, halls and bathrooms so you never have to stumble through the dark at night.

4. Overcome Fears of Falling with a Fall Prevention Class
Many older adults are afraid of falling. Such fear can cause them to limit their activities and exercise. This can result in increased weakness and worsening balance, both of which make the risk of falling greater. Classes offered through programs such as the nationally recognized "A Matter of Balance" program are designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults. Participants learn to:

  • View falls as controllable
  • Set goals for increasing activity
  • Make changes to reduce fall risk at home
  • Exercise to increase strength and balance

During Falls Prevention Awareness Week, many community-based organizations across the United States are offering free services to help older adults gain the strength, improved balance and confidence to help them live safer, healthier lives. For more information on free Fall Prevention exercise classes offered by the Silver&Fit-endorsed Geri-Fit program, call 1-888-GERI-FIT.

Check out more helpful tips on how to prevent falls on Silver&Fit's Facebook page.

About the Silver&Fit Exercise & Healthy Aging Program

The Silver&Fit program is an exercise and healthy aging program providing unique, evidence-based fitness and health education activities for Medicare beneficiaries and group retirees. As part of the Silver&Fit program, members have access to: no-cost or low-cost memberships at a participating, contracted fitness club or exercise center, or to the Silver&Fit Home Fitness Program for those unable to participate at a fitness facility or who prefer to work out at home; SilverandFit.com, a website with a variety of health tools and resources specifically designed for older adults; The Silver Slate®, a quarterly newsletter; and a toll-free customer service hotline. Follow Silver&Fit on Twitter @SilverandFit, Instagram @SilverandFit, YouTube at www.youtube.com/silverandfit, and Facebook at www.facebook.com/SilverandFit. The Silver&Fit program is a product of American Specialty Health Fitness, Inc., a subsidiary of American Specialty Health Incorporated (ASH).

About American Specialty Health

American Specialty Health Incorporated (ASH) is one of the nation's premier independent and privately-owned specialty health services organizations, providing specialty health care networks and programs, fitness and exercise programs and population health solutions for health plans, insurance carriers and employer groups. Operating from offices in San Diego, CA, Southlake (Dallas), TX, Carmel (Indianapolis), IN and Columbia, SC, ASH has more than 1,100 employees and administers services for more than 34 million members nationwide. Additional products offered through ASH and its subsidiaries include Healthyroads®, FitnessCoach™, Active&Fit®, ExerciseRewardsTM and others. For more information about ASH, visit http://www.ashcompanies.com/ or call 800-848-3555. Follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter at @ASHCompanies.

Geri-Fit is a registered trademark of Geri-Fit Company, Ltd., and is used with permission herein.

Lisa Freeman
800-848-3555, ext. 3722
Direct: 310-390-3070