As seniors grow older, they may develop physical disabilities, injuries, or limitations that can stop them from being as mobile as they’d like. Limited mobility or immobility is one of the most common age-related disabilities, with about 2 out of 3 seniors having experienced some struggle with walking or daily activities. Challenges with mobility can make aging and retirement living much more difficult, but there are plenty of options for seniors to help improve their mobility and keep their independence.
Limited Mobility in the Elderly
Limited mobility can impact mental and emotional health and quality of life. Without the ability to be as active as possible, seniors can lose the ability to exercise, go about their daily activities, go to the doctor, or socialize outside the home. These limitations can lead to feelings of depression, as a lack of mobility can confine them to their home and isolate them from family and friends. It can also take away from a senior’s sense of independence, which is important to keep as they age and focus on themselves throughout retirement.
How to Improve Mobility in the Elderly
Helping seniors increase or improve mobility requires the right combination of exercise and slight lifestyle modifications. Solutions to decreased mobility can be as simple as quick exercises in the home or minor diet changes.
A great way to increase and/or maintain mobility levels is to exercise. Exercise is important for all ages, but especially so for seniors who are at higher risk for chronic pain and disability. A good place to start is to find modifications or alternatives to physical activities that are no longer safe for seniors to practice. Physical activities that incorporate stretching, balance, and strength training are ideal for seniors, as they can be most effective for improving flexibility and mobility.
Balance exercises help build muscle in the legs while improving stability. Increased stability helps seniors avoid falls which, in turn, helps them avoid debilitating injuries such as bone breaks or fractures. A simple balance exercise is to stand one foot a few times a day, standing next to a wall or surface that you can use as support.
Tight muscles can lead to pain or injury in daily activities, such as reaching for something on a shelf or bending down to pick something up. Loosening the muscles through gentle stretch exercises can make these daily tasks easier, and relieve tension in the body. For increasing mobility, seniors should focus on stretching their neck, shoulders, back, hamstrings, and ankles.
Yoga combines stretching, muscle building, and flexibility training into one low-impact exercise. There are a variety of yoga difficulties that cater to people of all mobility ranges, seniors included. It can help to alleviate joint or muscle pain while relieving any stress held in the body. Yoga exercises that target different mobility levels or muscle groups can be found online to be practiced at home.
Mobility issues can prevent seniors from going out for mundane activities, such as going to the supermarket or the doctor. When walking or driving isn’t an option, there are several assistive devices that can help seniors with limited mobility complete their daily tasks without assistance.
For seniors with limited upper body strength, mobility scooters are a great option for moving around outdoors with ease. Mobility scooters are generally designed to be used for shorter trips and can be used if one needs help getting around a grocery store or other larger areas.
Cane or Walking Aid
Canes are ideal for seniors who are better able to balance and can shift weight from one leg to another easily. Canes can make mobility more fluid and allow for added balance and strength. For seniors with more difficulty balancing, walkers provide necessary upper body support while walking in and out of the house.
Public transportation services are affordable and can promote a sense of social independence in seniors, as they can comfortably travel without assistance or a personal driver. Seniors who rely on walkers or wheelchairs can use most public transit systems, as every public bus and train is legally required to have wheelchair-accessible seating. Using public transportation can encourage some mobility, including the walk to and from the station, walking up or down flights of stairs, and navigating crowds during rush hour.
Assisted Living Centers
When living at home is no longer an option for a senior in retirement, an assisted living center or retirement community can offer all benefits of independent living while providing resources and support for moving around safely. Fellow seniors can help reduce the feelings of isolation that come with living alone and facility employees are able to help seniors perform their everyday tasks and activities without risk of injury.
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for seniors. Being overweight causes extra strain and pressure on the legs that can make it more difficult to move around. That’s why it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet that avoids processed foods and sugary drinks. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet not only helps to reduce weight gain, but also to regulate blood pressure. It’s also essential to drink plenty of water daily. Not drinking enough water can lead to tiredness, headaches, and low energy, which can increase the level of pain after mild exercises or activities.
One stumble can cause a fall that could seriously hinder mobility. Fall-related injuries are a major concern for seniors, as sustaining injuries can limit the use of the legs, hips, and back. To avoid simple falls, seniors should consider the safety of their environments. At home, seniors living without assistance should avoid clutter and keep their floors free of objects that can cause falls, including shoes, dog toys, or chairs. When venturing outdoors, seniors should steer clear of walkways full of snow or rain and maintain a steady pace.