Health: better managing mobility problems in the elderly

For many older adults, quality of life includes participating in hobbies, maintaining independence and getting out into the world. Mobility problems can physically prevent someone from spending time doing activities they enjoy and can lead to social isolation, depression and declining health. Many adults begin to limit their activities as they age, believing they can do less physically. But staying active is the key to aging gracefully and maintaining health. Addressing health issues that affect mobility and taking preventive measures can improve physical and mental well-being. For those with existing mobility issues that are more limiting, assistive technologies and devices can help seniors continue to foster social connections and maintain their quality of life. This can include GPS devices for seniors with dementia, scooters or wheelchairs, and home monitoring systems such as fall sensors. How can seniors prevent mobility problems and keep existing problems from getting worse?

Staying active

Seniors should always talk to their doctor before starting a new exercise program. If approved, regular exercise can strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. Whether it's walking, dancing or stretching, regular physical activity is essential to maintaining mobility. According to a recent study, improvements were seen in all 70- to 90-year-olds who added some physical activity to their weekly routine for about two years, and those who exercised more saw better results.

Maintaining a healthy weight and diet

It's simply easier to move around without carrying extra weight, and there's less stress on bones and joints. This is important at any age, but weight issues can be especially important for older adults.

Knowing the effects of medications

Seniors should discuss the side effects of their medications with their doctor. Some may cause problems with balance or alertness, which can impact mobility.

Identify fall hazards in the home

Falls can not only be caused by balance or mobility problems, but injuries can make mobility problems worse. Cleaning the home of clutter and loose rugs or wires, making sure rooms are well lit, using nightlights in bathrooms, and eliminating other tripping hazards can all help prevent falls.

Ask a doctor about walking aids

For those who are a bit unsteady on their feet, a cane or walker can be used. A doctor or physical therapist can recommend specific types and styles. They can also adjust the walking aid to the proper height and ensure that it is used properly.

Combining activity and social connection

Participating in community activities is one of the most enjoyable ways to keep seniors mobile. Local hospitals, senior centers and community centers often have exercise or walking programs

Share concerns with a health care professional

Certain conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and dementia can affect mobility. The risks can often be reduced if the medical condition is diagnosed and treated.

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