The question is inane. Here's a better question, and why it's so damned important that we change how we answer it
Last night I slept on the couch. Stanley Steemer was here cleaning carpets yesterday morning and I can't walk in my bedroom or downstairs, so both gym work and sleeping in my own bed were off limits until the weekend.
Small price to pay for lifting the cat pee out of my carpet in the basement, and getting those coffee stains out of the bedroom carpet. White carpet. Really? Yep.
The rest of the entire upstairs is oak wood floors, installed after I arrived. Bear with me, that's a relevant detail.
I hid in my office, the two guys went to work. It got loud. Travis was taking care of the carpet in my bedroom, using water from outside, and lots of tubes and wires up and down the darkened hallway. I had no clue they were there, and I had a mask on, which has a bad habit of blocking what's near your feet.
You can see what's coming. It got so loud that during one phone call I left the office for the living room. I was walking fast, as is my habit. Just as I crossed into the living room, I stepped over the tubing but my left foot got tangled in the electrical wires I couldn't see.
I went down like a heifer in a rodeo competition, knee first, bad shoulder second, left pinky finger last, on hard oak floor. My phone flew. In two seconds I was up, continued talking, marched to the freezer for ice, then plopped on the couch to finish my call while doing my best to control the growing volcano on my left knee.
Like nothing happened, except that my buddy heard the impact, and I was laughing.
The only reason I iced it is because I am a bleeder. These days the old RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) has been debunked, and I concur. THE best thing to do, barring a break, is move that joint.
I could hardly stop giggling about it. Trevor came out, horrified, to make sure I was fine. I was laughing out loud. I can't help it. I'm as graceful as a drunk camel.
Of course I was fine. Bruised, AND fine. I kept moving, moving, moving that knee. Just fine. My buddy on the phone, a seventyish man and fellow athlete, got the joke. A few hours later I was out hiking my favorite three-mile speed hike route in no pain at all.
The question isn't how many times you fell, but how fast did you get back up?
It's no joke that most folks who do down at that speed at my age, 69, do not get back up. If they're alone in the house, as many of us are, they may stay down. Hence the proliferation (natch) of handy-dandy devices to save our aging butts if we can't get up.
A problem, kindly, most of us could solve if we moved more, ate less, ate far more wisely, stopped pounding dumb pills down our gullets for problems that more movement and better food might well solve, and stopped spending too much time melting like greying, flabby marshmallows into our soft couches.
But that's at any age.
All those are preventable. Other issues, like chronic diseases like Parkinson's, changes in our inner ears, diminishing vision are very real as we age. Those we have to plan for and take into account, whether that's accident-proofing our homes with the help of an occupational specialist or installing bars where we may need them, such as getting in and out of slippery tubs and shower stalls. Again, that's not limited to age.
When I've had surgeries, those bars are critically important when I have a peg or an arm down. It's good business, good common sense to have those bars in toilets.
The medical community, which in far too many cases is a big part of the problem, asks lousy questions. After I turned sixty, a decade in which I fashioned myself into a serious athlete, I began getting peppered with:
How many times have you fallen in the last six months?
Okay. Stupid question. Because for those dedicated to a healthy lifestyle, who move fast, work out and push ourselves AT ANY AGE, we're gonna fall. Trip, not see that root in the path. Come off our bikes, miss a step at the gym, fall over doing balance work, endless reasons we topple over in the normal process of being alive.
However you and I get asked this question because it is assumed that the moment we wake up after the big six-OH, we are going to fall simply because we are old.
You will forgive me while I spit. Don't step on it, though, you might slip.
Here's the piece. People fall because they do stupid shit, take dumb chances, don't work out, aren't flexible, don't think before they reach too far. They fall because they don't take care of their bodies, they addle their brains with over-the-counter (OTC) meds which have affects on mental acuity and balance, then layer them with too many scripts which also have those effects, and worse, when combined, cause even more problems THAT HAVE TO DO WITH MEDS, NOT JUST AGE.
Age does create challenges like changes in vision, balance as our inner ears harden and change, and other inevitabilities. We may leave a coffee spill on the kitchen tile and that becomes a trap. We simply need to be more careful. I move VERY fast, and can be terribly careless. That's on me. On all of us.
Like I said, I'm clumsy, I move too fast, but I am in the kind of shape whereby when I fall, and I do, and I will again, I get right back up again.
It is absolutely true that we fall later in life. It's also absolutely true that humans fall because we get tired or step on ice or don't watch our feet or walk too fast down a dark hallway, masked, where unexpected traps lie in waiting.
At all ages. It's not just age that does it. Medically-induced aging, which is what I call drug-induced brain fog, the lack of doctors prescribing movement and better nutrition instead of a slew of more toxic meds, is what causes more falls than just aging per se.
That is also why more folks fall younger and younger, because we are medicating ourselves for lifestyle illnesses, which further age us in our twenties and thirties long before the first grey sprouts at the temples.
I usually fall because I'm trying out a new sport, or a sport sent me flying off a horse or a bridge or out of an airplane. I usually fall because I get distracted and don't watch where I put my hiking boot. So instead of stopping to look at scenery I topple down the scenery. I find all this very funny.
Because the times I broke my back in eight places in Kazakhstan when a horse threw me at the gallop, and I went tush over teakettle down way too many concrete stairs in Iceland and smashed my pelvis, my head and broke my wrist and elbow, I leapt right back up and got to safety. Those stories became part of my repertoire.
Because of how fast I got back up.
How fast can you get back up? It's a fair question. This is NOT about be like me. It's about being the best of your version of you, not trapped in a body that would not only be terribly damaged by a minor slip and fall, but more so trapped by fear of falling, as a great many seniors are. There is no need for this. None at all, not if you and I are largely still able to stand, move, be mobile, and can make better decisions about the shape we are in.
My mother lived her last decade in an easy chair, chained to an oxygen tank, barely able to shuffle across ten yards without losing her breath. She fell, often, and as a result was understandably afraid of falling again. But she neither ate well nor exercised regularly. She crippled herself day by day, choice by choice.
Another thing that cripples thin White and Asian women is having osteoporosis or osteopenia, which is the precursor and preventable. There is no excuse for this. That can be dealt with through diet and exercise, but once we have it, it can only be managed. The point is prevention.
You and I are in training for our eighties and beyond. The guy on the phone who was listening when I got roped to the hardwood (emphasis on HARD) by the electrical wires, told me that his new goal is simply to be fit. He already biked Pike's Peak. Like me he needs a goal. We're veterans, we like big goals. Mine is to head back up Kilimanjaro next year. That's a lot of training to do.
I'm bloody well going to fall plenty of times while doing it, too. Guaranteed. But every time I do I am going to leap right back up and keep going.
So can you. But we have to train for it.