It’s A Matter of Balance
Balance: Not just for circus artists walking a tightrope, balance is a skill we all take for granted. You see it in toddlers just learning to walk as they test out various forms of ambulation.
Now at the other end of life’s journey, we once again need to pay attention to the matter of balance. As we know, getting older brings changes in sight, hearing, muscle strength, coordination, and reflexes. Falls and accidents seldom “just happen.” They occur because we are not paying attention. If we want to be wise old people instead of just old people, we must learn to compensate.
Here are some things I have learned to do (or not) since I had Guillain Barre.
Hold the handrails while going up or down stairs. I learned the hard way that running carefree up or down can cause me bodily injury. It’s better to be slow than lying draped across the threshold—less embarrassing.
Don’t take chances. Keep a short, sturdy stool or ladder handy for when you need to reach something. Avoid the temptation to stand on a chair which wasn’t designed to hold the full weight of a standing adult. If you must climb a ladder, mount slowly and descend even more slowly. I once climbed down in my usual fashion and stepped on the dog, throwing us both off balance.
Remain aware of your surroundings. Watch that crack in the sidewalk—the one waiting to trip you. While it’s pleasant to look at the clouds or a bird in a nearby tree, stop walking while looking. The same goes for looking backward. Recently I took the dog for a walk in coyote country. Henry (dog) kept looking over his shoulder, causing me to wonder what he knew that I didn’t know. Tempting as it was to look behind us and break into a run I just kept going at a medium fast pace.
Avoid creating trip hazards in your home: things such as electric cords where you normally walk or throw rugs without non skid backing. Keep dark hallways or stairways well lit. Spending extra pennies on the electric bill beats spending many dollars on hospital bills.
And now we come to exercise. Stretching and strength is the key to successful exercising to help keep balance. For one place to obtain free balance exercises go to http://www.balance-exercises.com/2/course.html.
To learn more about It’s a Matter of Balance go to: http://www.mainehealth.org/mh_body.cfm?id=432