This is the second in a series of three articles on the subject of Falling and the Floor. These were originally published three years ago when this blog post was a PDF Newsletter.
FALLING, PART 2
MAKE THE FLOOR YOUR FRIEND
by Bob McMillan
When we fall, unless we recover immediately, we will end up on the floor or ground. As I mentioned last time, gravity and momentum are the prime movers that determine where we fall and how fast we get to the ground.
It makes sense, then, to get used to the floor and to make it your friend. In this article, I’ll discuss ways to get down and up from the floor and some things you can do while you’re there.
The easiest way for most of us to get down is to ease down onto one knee while (holding onto a chair if you’re more comfortable with that), putting your other knee on the floor, then putting your hands down and ending up on your hands and knees.
From your hands and knees, there are plenty of moves you can make to end up on your stomach, your back, or a sitting position. Most active, healthy seniors are quite capable of doing this.
To get up, the easiest way is to rise to one knee either holding onto a chair for support, or not, and, using the strength in your legs, simply standing up from there.
This all presupposes a certain degree of strength in your legs. But if you can stand up from a sitting position in a chair without using your hands, you should have enough leg strength to get up and down directly from the floor without a problem. Most active seniors are perfectly capable of doing this.
There are plenty of things you can do while you’re on the floor to get used to being there.
- Crawl around on your hands and knees. This will not only give you a feel for the floor, but will help you build some strength in your arms and shoulders. It can be useful too. When my mother in law was in her late eighties, she would drop her hearing aid batteries on the floor of her independent living apartment. She would order her “boyfriend”, same age, to get down on the floor to retrieve the batteries. He would get down on his hands and knees and crawl around until he found them (usually under the couch). It was a struggle but he could do it.
- Roll around like a 12 month baby. Notice how the floor feels on your front and yourback. Notice what it feels like against your body. Where are the pressure points. Practice rolling around for a while before you get up. Move your arms and legs all around while you are down there. Yes, it does take a little effort.
- “Scrunch” around in various directions both on your stomach or on your back. Use your back, shoulders, elbows and legs as pivot points to “push” yourself around on the floor. If you fall and are injured, this may be the best way to reach a phone to call for help. Plus you’ll build some core strength and flexibility at the same time.
The point of all this is, the floor, or the ground, is where you will end up if you fall. If you get used to it and make it your friend, the aftermath of a fall may be a little less traumatic. I recommend that you use the floor as a regular part of a regular exercise routine. By the time you do floor exercises as a regular part of your routine, getting up and down will be one more injury prevention tool at the ready.
There are numerous excellent floor exercises that are done as part of other disciplines that are excellent for seniors. I will mention “Ginastica” a series of exercises that are derived from the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu martial art, the Feldenkrais Method of body movement dynamics which are a rather benign series of floor exercises and body movements that should be very useful for seniors, and contemporary dance floor exercises. These can be useful for seniors as flexibility and mobility movements requiring a certain amount of effort. Remember, without effort, the movements are relatively useless. Google the names to get information on the methods I named.
So, in summary, it is important that seniors make friends with the floor. Whether it is because you may drop your hearing aid batteries and have to crawl around on the floor looking for them (and retrieving them), or whether you just want some excellent exercises for flexibility and mobility. Most importantly, for now, your familiarity with the floor will help dissipate the fear that many seniors have of the floor and may reduce susceptibility to falling. Do the movements I have discussed, and strengthen your legs and core, and falling should become much less of the nightmare that many seniors experience.
Next issue, I will discuss balance, the relationship of balance to falling, and suggest some exercises that you can do to improve your balance.
Thank You for reading.