Senior Living Q & A: Balancing practice may prevent falls

Q. What can I do to improve my balance (or lack of balance) as I age?

Balance is a very big issue for all of us. Falls can lead to broken hips or other broken bones, resulting in (at best) many long months of physical therapy required to regain our previous functioning.

As it is said in the sports world, “the best offense is a good defense.” The best time to prepare is before you think you have a problem.

When children fall, they generally are able to just get up and keep going, but it is very different for us. One of the reasons is that a child’s physical activity consists of moving in all directions: forward, backward and side to side. Adults generally just walk forward. Then when we start to fall, our brain doesn’t know how to help us stay upright. People who are lifelong dancers generally have less falls because their brain is used to telling their body to move in different directions.

As adults, we need to continue to use our bodies in different directions. Depending on your abilities, you can walk or run backwards, or stand holding on to the kitchen counter while stepping backwards and to the side. When you exercise, be sure your workout includes moving in different directions. Often times, just turning to face a different wall is difficult for us. That’s why we should do it.

If you are having a serious balance issue, there are various community resources to help you. Verdugo Hills Hospital has a program entitled “A Balanced Life” that is run by physical therapists and is designed to help retrain your body to reduce your risk of falls. The YMCA also has a balance program to help strengthen the muscles that contribute to keeping us upright. Talk to your doctor about either of these programs to see what is right for you.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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