Last night I fell again. I broke my new glasses and bruised my ribcage. The glasses are already repaired and the rib cage is going to be OK. The important part is that I fall at least three times a year which is a lot. My thesis advisor died in a fall in 2020. Falling is dangerous and I live alone (and like it). I happened to be on the phone when I fell talking to the same friend in whose house I fell last summer when I injured my shoulder.

Of course I consulted Dr. Google who gave me a lot of possible causes but the one that seemed most likely was that getting older often results in people falling. I read some daunting statistics (falls after age 60 increase 30% and after 80 some incredible number I can’t remember). I don’t have vertigo or dizziness. It’s a balance thing. I have one leg 1/2 (1 cm) shorter than the other and a couple of prosthetic hips so, right there, I’m a hazard to myself. I also wear glasses which means that little space between the bottom of my glasses and my cheek is uncorrected. Add to that, I’ve always been kind of clumsy. I could run narrow trails in mountains without falling, but walking on the flat sidewalk could be hazardous.

I learned a lot today. I learned that as we age, our reflexes are slower and that can lead to falling. Something we might “catch” and merely stumble at 30 will pull us down at 70. That’s why most elder falls are not “caused” by anything like a carpet, rug, dog. curb, etc. We’re not “tripped up” in the normal sense. It’s true. I do not fall over anything. My fall in August was on a flat floor. I was wearing walking shoes and basically standing still.

This morning a doctor friend of mine told me about a program that’s designed to help people with this. It’s called Nymbl. I signed up and did my first “class.” It’s an app that trains the mind and body to work together based on the argument that NOT falling when a person is older is a cognitive not reflexive function. So, we have to learn. I’ve done the first day of training.

It’s very interesting. I got an exercise and a mental test sort of like the Medicare brain test thing Trump aced so brilliantly. First I did the physical exercise. Then the mental test, and then I did the two together. I got it. It’s literally training the brain to pay attention in such a way that no young person needs to.

Nymbl’s Dual-Tasking Approach

  • There are two elements to balance, cognitive and physical –While both are important, Nymbl’s technology focuses on the cognitive element of balance
  • The cognitive element of balance allows older adults to recognize they are falling and through practice, formulate a “plan” on how to catch themselves in an instant – known as their balance reflex
  • As people age, their balance reflex starts to decline, meaning their balance is now an executive function, they have to actively think about it
  • Nymbl retrains a person’s reflexive balance, combining cognitive challenges with simple functional movements together – An older adult’s brain is focused on the cognitive challenge which means their reflex has to control their body and balance. (from Nymbl website)

I saw exactly WHY I might not “remember” how to run. My body doesn’t remember; it doesn’t have that capability that it had forever. Possibly, also, it no longer has the reflexive capability of automatically taking off like a rocket, maybe diminished also by the fears that result from hip arthritis. There’s also something in this program about fear. I get that, too. I see what this app is attempting which is increasing competence. Fear of falling is terrible, and I have it. I am mostly alone. My dogs aren’t going to call for help if I need it. I don’t want to stop living on my own. That’s the point, the desperate reality of this situation.

The Truth About Falls

  • Statistics show that 1 of 3 older adults will have a fall event in any given year
  • 1 in 6 of falls will require an Emergency Room visit
  • Half of ER visits due to falls will result in a hospitalization
  • Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for older adults. (Nymbl website)

It’s a 90 day program. We’ll see how it goes…

63 thoughts on “Falling

      • On the other hand, a lot of old people I see with injurious falls have fallen down the stairs while drunk. We metabolize alcohol more slowly as we age. It takes less to be impaired. If you combine impairment with slowed righting reactions, you get falling down the stairs and breaking a lot of ribs. If you’re on an anticoagulant (e.g. Warfarin), you may also end up with a brain bleed to go with those broken ribs.

  1. I hope your fall program works well. There are a bunch out there. Some focus on fall prevention, some try to teach you how to fall without getting hurt, some try to teach you how to get back up.

  2. I know that when I go on a hike, it the terrain is irregular I consciously think about where I’ll go if I start to fall. You can usually control how you fall even if can’t avoid falling completely. I might hurt myself on gentle terrain but I probably won’t kill myself.

    When I an traversing a slope on a trail, I’ll think about falling to the uphill side of the slope. The ground is a lot closer.

    • So far I haven’t fallen out there in the world. Just in houses and sometimes in my yard. I think it’s partly not paying attention, having legs of different lengths and poor balance. I have to do something or I’ll lose the life I want to. have 😦

  3. That is scary, and my balance is definitely worse than it used to be. I’m glad your being proactive in retraining your body and mind to work together

  4. Of course, it happens when you least expect it! What a bummer. I hope you don’t discover too many new aches and pains as a result. If I can get that app for free (bit unclear from the info they provide), I will do it with you. I had my last fall before Christmas so I must be due another one. I’ve got no peripheral vision from my retinas being lasered to within an inch of their life.

  5. Ugh. Glad you’re okay. Yoga improved my balance in the past. Your experience is a good nudge to me to start again. Keep us posted on what you think about the Nymbl app, how helpful you find it.

    • I will keep everyone posted. I think this is not just my problem. It seems it is a general concern in my little community here. I’m on a mission to stay upright so I can walk my dogs and not end up in the ER. It’s a clear life goal, clearer than many I’ve had. 😀

  6. Martha, I’m so glad you’re ok. 🙏🏻It really bothers my heart to think you could fall all alone and no one there. 😢 After my TBI and loss of balance, I fell alone in a small Ozark’s canyon not far from here. It had a great outcome but a scary few hours. My family always worries about me falling (left hip, no depth perception, and scars from the falls in the last 7 years). In my case I have to retrain parts of my brain, but I do still have some mental muscle ability on how to fall~just my reaction is too slow! This app is fascinating to me. I’ll have to check it out. I’ve been lucky it’s been several months since I took a fall. Age adds something~yet, injury doesn’t discriminate when your brain and reflexes (and gravity) make their own choices. Please stay safe. If you need I think I can be there in 13 hours and 4 minutes (plus the time for Finn to do her thing). We love you! 💕🐶🙏🏻

    • Oh Karla! ❤ I am making an appointment with my doc, calling tomorrow. This is just impossible. I think I remember something about how to fall but yeah; my reaction isn't fast enough. The falls happen so incredibly fast and out of nowhere. I have to find a strategy for this or I'm headed for the home. No dogs, no this, no that plus no $$ to pay for it! I'm not ready — if I can fight it. My bright Angel (Bear) keeps my eyes where they are supposed to be. My sign in for the app is WalkBear! ❤

  7. Oh my Martha. I know that with your inquiring mind you will learn how to combat this latest affront. I too wear glasses and am careful on icy streets especially, but I find that all the yoga I do has taught me to not just control my body but be mindful of it. The program you mention sounds like it addresses both the physical and the mental aspects. It is so important to recognize how our brains work and how we can use our understanding to age better. Balance is very complicated!

  8. I think the key has to be remembering to stand up straight, as was said above! I fall about once every 5 years, but I’m very careful with steps, trip hazards, etc. Several times I have considered one of those “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” things, but just can’t bring myself to go that direction! I’m glad you’re doing the Nymbl thing, and seeing your doctor as well!

    • I would feel a little easier if I fell over something. That’s the troubling part. We’ll see. I’m considering an Apple Watch which has the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” thing. I don’t know yet. I do know I’m not psychologically ready for the thing around my neck. ❤

      Standing up straight is impossible. I want to; I feel like I am, but I have pretty bad scoliosis and one leg shorter than the other. I sound like a troll 😀

      I think improved awareness will help. So far I've never fallen when I'm out with the dogs that makes me think mindfulness might be a big part of this equation.

  9. Ouch!! I’m so glad you are feeling okay… My MIL fell this last week and gave herself a black eye. I do hope the app works and you are able to manage the fall risks. I’m going to look this app up as it just might be the thing for her!!

    • My doctor friend (who has a blog here though she doesn’t write often) recommended it. She has been doing it for a while. Her blog is curioussteph.com if you want to check it out. She’s a bright, interesting woman.

  10. So sorry you had another fall Martha. The year after Larry died I had three falls. My doctor couldn’t find any reason for it, but I have learned falling when grieving is not unusual. Everything is out of balance. I too researched the whole falling thing and I discovered there are courses on how to fall as a senior to help minimize serious injury. Let me know how the app thing goes, I may be interested in trying that.

    • I’ll let you know about the app. I’m also interested in learning how to fall better, but right now I’m sure not ready to practice that. I think it’s interesting what you say about grief and falling. I think our brains are somethings doing one thing (resolving problems? dealing with emotions?) and our body is just trying to move around and BAM.

  11. I am so glad to hear you are okay after your fall, Martha! And I am also glad to hear there is something that can be done to counter the increased falling as I fear this is on my future, as well.

    • I’m seeing my doctor on Monday and I’m getting a device to alert someone if I fall and can’t do that myself. I think I’ve cracked a rib which just means no dog walking I guess for a while. I’ve always been clumsy except on a trail and it didn’t occur to me that this is serious until I was injured 2 times in six months. That’s a red flag. So… I’ll post my progress, Shannon. I hope it isn’t in your future. It’s very scary.

      • An alert device is so smart, Martha. And I am sorry to hear about the rib, I had some trauma to mine in November and that is no joke (super painful). I am managing to rack up the injuries in the last few years when I had never broken anything before so I am worried it is going to continue. Please continue to share how things are going with you!

    • ❤ My ribs are a lot better today so, I'm a lot more hopeful and in a better state of mind. BUT the scary part is falling and the thought of NOT living the way I want to any more. Anyway, maybe when I see the doc tomorrow I will learn something and get some help.

      • Please let me know what transpired. I really want to know cause I care.i have fallen so many times and it’s unnerving and takes an inordinate amount of time to get over to my way of thinking.

        • ❤ My doc ordered a bunch of lab work to find out if it's thyroid, B12, anemia, blood sugar or some other metabolic/endocrinological problem. She also prescribed physical therapy which I'll start doing as soon as they call me to set up an appointment. She explained that they have diagnostic tools to determine if it's something in my balance/gait or something and then therapy to improve whatever it is. Since I'm never dizzy when I fall, I don’t trip over something, and I don't black out, it's a little mysterious. We're hoping one of these things leads to an answer otherwise we have to go to the nasty neurological questions. ❤ So… meanwhile I'm being careful and optimistic.

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