Senior Health: Overcoming Fears of Falling

Class Helps Elderly Bodies -- and Minds -- Stay Strong

A participant gets some assistance in a class that helps improve seniors' balance,  flexibility and

A participant gets some assistance in a class that helps improve seniors' balance, flexibility and stamina. The "Matter of Balance" class also encourages members to discuss their fears. Madge Kaplan hide caption

itoggle caption Madge Kaplan

A growing body of research published in gerontology journals finds that the fear of falling is a big reason seniors adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Experts say this defensive response is understandable but it puts seniors in more peril — not less — because a lack of mobility weakens muscles and increases the risk of falls.

Research also shows that falls are the reason behind 40 percent of nursing home placements; falls are also the leading cause of accidental death among older adults. From member station WGBH in Boston, Madge Kaplan reports on older women at one senior housing complex and a class that helps them with their struggle to stay mobile and unafraid.

Recent research on the relationship between fear and falls among the elderly can be found in "The Gerontologist" and the "Journals of Gerontology".

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