Photo reportage commissioned by The New York Times on how the Dutch, like many people elsewhere, are living longer, often alone. As they do, courses that teach them not only how to avoid falling, but how to fall correctly, are gaining popularity.
This one, called Vallen Verleden Tijd course, roughly translates as “Falling is in the past.”
Like many people her age, Hans Kuhn, 85, worries that her daily routine — and the ability to live alone — would end if she ever lost her balance and fell.
She has lived in her house for decades, and alone since her partner died years ago. Its steeply winding staircase is equipped with a motorized chair on a rail to help reach upper floors. “I only use it when I have to bring lots of heavy things upstairs,” said Ms. Kuhn. Ms. Kuhn’s entire house is a study in efficiency and simple modifications that can make all the difference for an older person. Hand grips are installed in just the right places, as well as ramps to accommodate her two walkers. There is a stationary exercise bike to keep her moving, and a weight machine made from a big can of beans and string to maintain her upper body strength.
Even as she feels herself grow frailer and less flexible, she knows how to stay fit. “My main problem is I’m very afraid of falling,” she said.
Falling for the older adults can be a serious thing. Aging causes the bones to get brittle, and broken ones do not heal as readily.
Across the Netherlands, 3,884 people over the age of 65 died as result of a fall in 2016, and 96,200 required emergency medical care because of one. The number of fatalities rose 38 percent from just three years ago.
Experts say the rise could reflect the overall aging of the population, but also factors such as the growing use of certain medications or general inactivity.
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The New York Times