Judy, a sprightly grandmother who prides herself on fully participating in her community, was unhappy when we called to see her.
We were visiting her upmarket independent living apartment in order to understand the typical fluctuations in balance over time for people going about their daily lives.
Judy was subdued: she had fallen, and although she hadn’t broken anything, she was scared of it happening again.
“I feel I had a lucky escape this time,” she said.
Judy and a number of her friends had signed up to be part of our balance study where they would measure their balance as often as they liked, reporting on their daily health habits and any falls they experienced.
Since starting the study a month earlier, Judy had been scoring 3/10, which meant in the danger zone for falling. That day, Judy scored just 2/10. She was afraid her life was about to change, that she would have to give up her full social life and travel plans. “Aging’s not for sissies,” she said. “But it’s better than the alternative.”
Judy found that, after the first weeks of physical therapy, she began to feel stronger and was enjoying exercise classes at the apartments, as well as using the equipment at a nearby gym. Within 2 months she was scoring 5/10 (in the moderate zone).
“I can’t believe it!” she told us excitedly when we visited.
“I got a 5!” she called out to one of her friends.
When her physical therapy ended, she enrolled in a balance exercise class, and for the rest of the year, her balance scores were in the moderate zone. She visited family at the other end of the country, enjoying the freedom she felt.
When the Holidays came round and the exercise classes took a break, Judy turned her energies to organising social events with friends. She was alarmed to see her balance score drop to 3/10 again.
“I knew I had to keep myself moving,” she said. “I really notice it now if I take a couple of weeks off.”
The following year, Judy was delighted to get into the green zone for balance. “I feel pretty good about getting 7/10 at my age,” she said. “Even though it isn’t high every time, it’s like a little challenge to myself to see how close I can get.”
“Measuring my balance has really opened my eyes as to how much my balance changes and how the little things I do every day have such a big impact.”