For the first time since 2001, the American Geriatrics Society and the British Geriatrics Society have updated their guidelines for preventing falls in older people. The update includes two notable changes: One recommends tai chi — the meditative, slow-motion Chinese exercise — as an effective way to prevent falls, while another suggests that doctors review medication use by all elderly patients, with an eye toward reducing use of those drugs that increase the risk of falling.

The earlier guidelines did not single out any particular exercise regimen and endorsed prescription reviews only for patients taking more than four medications.

Exercise is essential for any older person who can manage it, according to Dr. Mary Tinetti of the Yale University School of Medicine, a chairwoman of the panel that issued the new guidelines. Tai chi gets the nod because several trials have suggested that it seems to help reduce the risk of falling, she said, although it is possible that other forms of balance training work just as well.
The updated guidelines distinguish between a fall that requires intervention and one that might be a isolated incident. The updated criteria for getting a risk evaluation are:
An elderly person worried or frightened by a fall.
Two or more falls in the past year.
One or more falls with injury.
Repeated difficulty with balance when walking. 1

It is essential that tai chi movements and tai chi program protocol are understood equally between Tai Chi teachers and health care professionals, so that each knows what to expect from the other.

The continuum of care can be extended when the intensive course of therapy has been exhausted, but the patient can still make improvements with continued exercise. The continuum progresses from therapeutic intervention to continued rehabilitation, and further, into prevention, when the therapist can make informed choices in referring patients to appropriate community based activities.

1 KAREN STABINER, New Advice on Preventing Falls, in New Old Age Blog NY Times,February 17, 2011, 8:00 am

Author's Bio: 

I am very well positioned to deliver professional continuing education courses, and to provide community program consult.

With more than 800 hours of training, and well over 7500 hours of teaching Tai Chi, primarily to senior citizens, I am able to offer my expertise to allied health professionals and the medical professions, as well as community orgaizations and hospitals. As an independent researcher, I have worked with the principal investigator at the University of CT in a study which looked at functional change in balance/fall prevention and ADL. I am conversant with the multifactorial approach to fall prevention and have implemented a fall prevention exercise intervention protocol (Tai Chi Moving for Better Balance) in three communities with repeat implementation in all three (high level of participant interest and success).

As an education psychology practitioner, I am well versed in assessment instrument adminstration and interpretation, and have significant experience with assessing, assigning and motivating student direction and success.

As a military officer, I spent the majority of 25 years as a training manager, analyst, and trainer: assessing need, designing programs, implementing programs, and evaluating outcomes. I was fortunate to have had experience with programs geared towards individuals and organizations of up to 2500 people engaged in a vast multitude of individual and collective activities. My responsibilities also included management of budgets, and other material resources as well as time and space requirements.