More than 2 million older Americans end up at the emergency room because of fall-related injuries every year. There are many related causes, but the majority is because seniors just don’t get enough exercise.
Regular exercise is a crucial part of maintaining health and mobility for older adults—especially those who are in memory care homes. Balance exercises are especially important because they can help to prevent falls. Here are two exercises that caregivers can help seniors perform. They’re simple, and they require no complicated or expensive equipment.
1. Standing on One Foot
Either you or a sturdy chair that’s not on wheels will be the only assistance required for this exercise. Have the person stand behind the chair, or extend your arm and tell them to hold on to it.
Then, have them raise one of their legs off the ground. The easiest way is to ask them to bend their knee, so that their foot comes up behind them. It only has to be a few inches off the ground. The objective is to have them standing only on one foot.
Ask them to hold this position for 10 seconds. Tell them it’s fine if they want to rest their hand on the hip of the raised leg. This might assist in their feeling of a comfortable balance. Be sure to watch for their stability, and be ready to assist them if they start to fall. Ask them to repeat this motion 10 times, and then switch to the other leg.
It might seem as if this isn’t even really an exercise. It’s helping the participant to utilize the muscles in their standing leg and back. They’ll be focused on keeping their balance, and that’s what you want to help them retain.
2. Heel-to-Toe Walk
Your exercise partner might not even believe that this is an exercise—and that’s one of the benefits. Have them do this exercise near a wall, or assure them that you’ll be right next to them to offer a steady arm.
Have them position the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot. This will work best if they actually have the heel of the front foot touching the toes of the trailing foot. Then tell them to take the back foot and place it in front of the front foot. Make sure they’re not looking down at their feet. Ask them to focus on a spot directly in front of them.
Speed isn’t what you’re after here. You want to help your exercise partner maintain a slow and steady movement as they concentrate on placing one foot in front of the other, taking about 20 or so steps. The exercise helps them think about foot placement and balance.
These two exercises help seniors to maintain—or even regain—their sense of balance. It allows them to feel surer of themselves as they move about. A better sense of balance can help to prevent fall-related injuries by building strength, flexibility, and endurance. Best of all, they don’t even really seem like exercises!