In addition to physical changes that impact overall activity levels, older adults often have to deal with memory, sensory, and mobility problems that come with aging. Aside from these, old age is also a major risk factor for a majority of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.
While mobility problems can lead to further health concerns such as social isolation, depression, and poor quality of life, there are effective ways to improve a senior’s life for the better and prevent injuries.
Reduce fall hazards at home
Older adults are prone to fall accidents often due to bone weakness, balance problems, and vision impairment. To deal with this very prevalent problem (one in four elderly Americans experiences a fall each year), seniors and their caregivers need to identify fall hazards in the home.
Fall accidents usually happen on the stairs, bathroom, and kitchen. Make sure that stairs have sturdy banisters so you or your loved one can use it them for added support and stability. You can also add carpet runners on the stairs to make the steps less slippery.
To safeguard seniors from bathroom accidents, install grab bars on the walls near the bathtub and the toilet seat. You can also use rubber mats to make the floor less slippery. Investing in shower chairs is a good idea as well to make bath time safer and easier for seniors who find it hard to stay on their feet.
The kitchen also offers many hazards in the form of fire, water, and sharp objects. Make it a habit to wipe any form of spillage from the floor immediately. And place frequently used items on the lower shelves to prevent seniors from trying to reach up high by standing on unsteady furniture.
Promote physical activity
Being overweight is a major risk factor for osteoarthritis, which can further aggravate their mobility problems. Exercising regularly can help seniors lose excess weight and reduce the strain on their weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees, and ankles. Exercising can also improve joint strength and flexibility. Likewise, being sedentary can make muscles, bones, and joints fragile and stiff, increasing the risk of injuries.
Use mobility aids
Walking aids are a great help to manage an elderly person’s mobility problems and provide them with some form of independence. If they find it hard to maintain their gait, you can provide them with a cane or a walking stick. If they have a more serious mobility condition that affects their balance and lower extremity strength, a walker is a wise choice. You can also opt for a rollator (or a rolling walker), which is like an upgrade to the standard walker because it contains wheels and brakes, making movement easier and safer for seniors.
A wheelchair is another form of mobility aid and is generally used when the lower extremities can no longer function and support the body weight. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you’re not sure what to choose, seek the help of a medical professional to determine which mobility aid best suits the needs of your loved one.
Although seniors with mobility problems can have very limited physical activity, helping them stay safe and active can go a long way in enhancing their sense of self-reliance and independence. Fall prevention, routine exercise, and mobility assistance play an important role in boosting health outcomes.