LEUSDEN, Netherlands — The shouts of schoolchildren playing outside echoed through the gymnasium where an obstacle course was being set up. There was the “Belgian sidewalk,” a wooden contraption designed to simulate loose tiles; a “sloping slope,” ramps angled at an ankle-unfriendly 45 degrees; and others like “the slalom” and “the pirouette.” They were not for the children, though, but for a class where the students ranged in age from 65 to 94. The obstacle course was clinically devised to teach them how to navigate treacherous ground without having to worry about falling, and how to fall if they did.
This course is called “Falling is in the past.” Falling courses — especially clinically tested ones — are a fairly recent phenomenon. Virtually unheard-of just a decade ago, the courses are now common enough that the government rates them. Certain forms of Dutch health insurance even cover part of the costs.
While the students are older, not all of them seemed particularly frail. Falling can be a serious thing for older adults. Aging causes the bones to become brittle, and broken ones do not heal as readily. Experts say the rise in fatalities reflects the overall aging of the population, and also factors such as the growing use of certain medications or general inactivity. Even inactivity in one’s 30s or 40s could lead to problems later in life, she noted.
The students meet twice a week. On Tuesdays, the students build confidence by walking and re-walking the obstacle course. Thursdays are reserved for the actual falls. In order to learn, the students start by approaching the mats slowly, lowering themselves down at first. Over the weeks, they learn to fall.
“That’s the power of physiotherapy with geriatrics,” she said. “You practice the things you know you can do, and not the things you can’t.”
I edited this article that appeared on facebook today and have added my "two bobs worth" in black below.
The Bones for Life is an excellent program for teaching falling strategies. In the Bones for Life program, we test stability in a safe environment. Getting friendly with the floor is imperative and many people as they age, lose this capacity in their joints to coordinate 'going down' to the floor. These simple movement strategies can be learned, and as a Ruthy Alon says “there is no pill for posture”. We have a 'plastic brain' and with education we have the capacity to learn new ways to move and function with better coordination. I can’t believe how successful the Bones for Life program is and this is a shame Bones for Life is not mainstream. The fear of falling is an innate fear that does not need to grow with age.
If you wish to learn how to fall with ease, find a Bones for Life/Movement Intelligence teacher who can tutor you privately or in small groups to address this very common problem of aging in the west.