The Fear of Falling
A 2018 study of residents in an aged care facility, found that residents did not participate in residential activities due to fear of falling and exhaustion (Cheu, 2018).
My mother is 75, a radical baby boomer. Over the last ten years, she has gone from being a happy, active and working person to one who lives on the couch. She has had knee replacements and heart issues. The pain she feels is real. The tiredness she feels is real. Unfortunately, the more she was on the couch, the more body tone she lost, the more her pain levels increased, the more her fear levels increased, the less she walked or engaged with society. She watches TV and rarely sees people. Her whole life is now determined by pain and the fear of falling. Her story is not unusual, says Helen – Yogazeit volunteer
“Maybe the fear is that we are less than we think we are when the actuality of it is that we are much much more.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Arriving at Your Own Door
The lack of activity and fear was despite being in a facility that was supportive and had appropriate activities. So, a different approach was tried: the trial of mindful movement through yoga and tai chi. The study was conducted with the Auckland University of Technology. The study found that mindful movement, tai chi and yoga, improved confidence, balance, posture and body awareness.
Calm and Mindful activities give a sense of safety
According to Dr Saravanakumar, yoga and tai chi gave seniors a sense of safety, unlike the traditional gym-based activities (Cheu, 2018). The activities were slow and mindful, calm and relaxing. The impact was that the seniors felt increased confidence, balance, posture and body awareness. The study concluded that seniors participating in mindful movement increased their physical strength and mental well-being.
Being stronger and body aware, is one of the best ways of preventing falls according to Stay on Your Feet (2022). Muscle and bone strength contribute to creating a “stable and controlled body position while we move”. So, confidence helped the seniors in the study overcome their fear of falling. Strength helped to overcome weak muscle balance challenges. The confidence and strength created a strength and mindful positivity circle.
The positivity circle prevents falls, but, what happens to the pain that is often a source of fear? Jon Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness practitioner, found that people in pain, who undertook activities that were mindful, had diminished perceived pain (Kabat-Zinn, 2013).
Mindful activities include movement but, importantly, also focus on the breath. By focusing on the breath, attention is on the body and mind in the moment. Slow mindful movement combined with the breath, decreases stress and decreases pain awareness. The person can then rest. Less perceived pain, increased positivity circle and less falls. A great outcome for seniors.
“The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” Jon Kabat-Zinn.
There is considerable research that suggests yoga, when practiced correctly, can have numerous benefits for seniors. These include:
- BETTER SLEEP HABITS
- IMPROVE STRENGTH AND PROTECT JOINTS
- CONTROL TYPE 2 DIABETES
- REDUCE HYPERTENSION
- LOSE WEIGHT
- IMPROVE MOOD AND REDUCE ANXIETY
- HELP WITH CHRONIC PAIN
- RELIEVE BREATHING AND LUNG ISSUES
- SHARPEN THE MIND
- FLEXIBILITY WITHOUT STRAIN
- BONE STRENGTH
YOGAZEIT supports FALLS PREVENTION
Yogazeit actively supports BRIGHWATER Group this April Falls Prevention month, offering over 20 classes of modified Chair Yoga and Mindfulness online on zoom (due to COVID restrictions). This means access to Health and Wellbeing initiatives to support healthy bodies and minds to all facilities across the month. Chair yoga classes are accessible, mindful and meaningful and include a selection of Lower Body, Cross Body, Core, Music Movement and more. All activities are aimed to support falls prevention and body-mind awareness, empowering older adults with limited ability (or fear of falling) to stay physically active and mentally healthy while improving flexibility, strengths and mood!
Are you interested in supporting older adults? Get in touch!
Please visit Seniors for more details on the full range of training courses for Aged Care staff and programs available.
- Stay on your feet.
- Cheu, S. (2018)
- https://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/executive/study-highlights- benefits-of-tai-chi-and-yoga-in-aged-care/
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness. Hyperion, New York.
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full Catastrophe of Living. Piatkus. London.
- Saravanakumar, P., Higgins, I.J., Van Der Riet, P.J, Sibbritt D. (2018) Tai chi and yoga in residential aged care: Perspectives of participants: A qualitative study.
- Journal of Clinical – Nursing vol 27, iss 23-24.
Written by: Helen Doran-Wu, Yogazeit Volunteer and passionate Yogi