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Health & Longevity

3 Steps You Can Take to Improve Mobility at Home

It’s common to experience a loss of mobility in old age. As we age, keeping balance and using our muscles become more of a challenge than before. When we move, we need to take greater care because the risk of falling becomes a more significant danger than before, especially for those who live alone; according to Dr. Nimali Jayasinghe, a physician at Weill Cornell Medical College, most falls (60%) happen in the home. Thankfully, mobility issues for seniors can be improved through home modifications, exercise routines, and mobility aids.

Home Modifications For Improved Mobility 

Seniors who live in assisted living communities have access to professional elderly caretakers and tools that can help address these problems. Still, those living at home don’t always have access to the same tools. Adding modifications to your home can make it easier to remain mobile and avoid common senior mobility problems.

Ramps are essential features if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter. Without them, even a small set of stairs can be a massive challenge for seniors with mobility problems.

Installing an adjustable hospital bed in your home is another excellent way for seniors to improve mobility. Having a hospital grade bed in your home can offer a great deal of independence and safety by making it far easier to get in and out of bed, especially when paired with other mobility aids. Residential hospital beds can also make home care easier for seniors and their caretakers.

Stairlifts can be a huge help for seniors who have at least one staircase in their home. Stairlifts are motorized chairs that safely transport you up and downstairs, and they can be a big help for people who have difficulty with them.

Exercises for Improved Mobility 

When we get older, our bodies go through many changes that can lead to less active lifestyles. This is a process called “deconditioning,” and it’s the reason for a significant number of injuries related to falls every year.

Simple exercises like stretching can go a long way to improving mobility in elderly people. They make our bodies more flexible, increase our range of motion, improve blood flow, and decrease the risk of physical injuries, to name a few. Doing a few stretches a day can have substantial health benefits for seniors, including mitigating loss of mobility in old age. 

Although exercise is generally a healthy practice that can improve mobility in seniors, it is essential to consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. This is especially important if you have had injuries that damaged muscles or joints, have had surgeries in the past, or have other physical disabilities. Remember, don’t overdo it. Never hold a stretch that causes you pain.

Back

Keeping your back in good shape is crucial, especially as you get older. Back problems can cause a myriad of mobility issues for seniors.

One way to easily stretch your upper back is to sit sideways in a chair with your back straight, your abs tight, and ankles in line with your knees. Then, carefully twist your body in one direction while holding on to the chair and holding that position when you feel a stretch. Repeat with the opposite side.

One way to stretch your lower back is by lying on your back with your knees and your feet on the floor or bed, depending on where you are lying down. Next, while keeping your knees together, carefully lower your legs to one side until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Repeat on the other side.

Neck

Having a stiff neck is uncomfortable, and it can also contribute to common mobility problems for seniors. You can keep your neck flexible by carefully stretching from left to right and up and down. You can also stretch your neck by bringing your chin down towards your chest, then slowly turning your head from side to side while keeping your chin down.

Shoulders

Keeping your shoulders fit is an important way for seniors to improve mobility. You can stretch your shoulders by holding a towel or an old t-shirt above your head and letting it fall slack. Then, grab the towel and hold it above your head with your other hand. Slowly bring the towel down to your shoulders until you feel a good stretch.

Another way to keep your shoulders in shape is with a seated shoulder press. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your abdominal muscles taut. Pick up two low-weight dumbbells. Hold them so the longer sides of each dumbbell face in front of and behind you, not towards your body. Hold them up to about ears’ height. Then lift them as high as you can and back down to your starting position a few times.

Chest

Your chest muscles are responsible for many basic movements essential for improving mobility. Poor flexibility in your chest can even affect your posture.

You can stretch your chest by sticking both arms to your side and reaching back while keeping your arms extended. If you have a hard time keeping your arms up, you can also stretch by putting your hand on a wall and stepping forward until you feel a stretch in your chest, then doing the same thing with the other hand.

Legs

If you can stand, you can stretch your quadriceps, which are located on the front portion of your thighs. This is a valuable stretch for those who love going on long walks and can help you keep balance while standing. Start by holding on to a chair or similarly stable object for balance. Lift your leg towards your buttocks and hold it for 30 seconds with one hand. When you’re done, gently let it back down so both feet are firmly on the ground, then repeat with the other leg.

Stretching your hamstrings is another way to help keep your balance while standing and can help make it easier to bend over. Carefully place the heel of one foot on a chair, using another chair or similar stable object if you need to. Bend forward until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg. Repeat with the other leg when you’re done.

You can also build strength in your legs, hips, and lower back by doing chair squats if you are able to stand up from a chair independently. Sit on the edge of a chair with your abdominal muscles tight, your chest out, and your back straight. Slowly stand up from the chair without bending your knees inward, then sit back down. Repeat a few times for a few minutes.

Ankles

It’s important to keep your ankles flexible. They’re not only crucial for keeping your balance, but they’re also prone to injury if they become too stiff. To stretch your ankles, sit in a chair and slowly move your foot up and down and side to side. You can also hold your foot in any position that isn’t painful.

Mobility Aids 

Mobility aids are tools designed to help older adults improve their mobility as they age. They grant indispensable mobility help for the elderly. Mobility aids can be things like canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters. 

Canes

Canes are long, sturdy rods with hand grips at one end. They are a good choice for seniors with disabilities or beginning to experience loss of mobility in old age. They provide support while walking or standing upright that can help alleviate pressure on the knees, ankles, and hips. They are also one of the cheapest and most easily accessible mobility aids available.

Walkers

Walkers are for people who need more support than is offered by canes. They are usually sturdy metallic frames surrounding the user on three sides at waist height. Some people use walkers with two to four wheels on the bottom so they can push the walker along as they walk. Others pick the walker up and set it down in front of them as they walk like a cane.

Walkers offer the user greater support than canes, are easy to store in a vehicle during travel, and are relatively inexpensive.

Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs are an excellent option for seniors who can no longer walk or have physical limitations that preclude them from using canes or walkers. They can be pushed or pulled by an aide or a loved one or even rolled by the user’s hand. Some wheelchairs are also powered electronically.

Wheelchair users enjoy good mobility and safety compared to walkers and canes. They can also be folded up and stored in most passenger vehicles. The downside is that they can be expensive, though prices vary depending on the features and model of the wheelchair. The cost of wheelchairs becomes more costly when you factor in the need for ramps in the home of anyone who relies on wheelchairs for mobility. Despite this, wheelchairs are a reliable way to compensate for senior mobility problems.

Scooters

Scooters are some of the most expensive mobility equipment available today, but they are highly beneficial to those who cannot operate a manual wheelchair. They tend to be battery-powered and ride on three or four wheels. Like wheelchairs, they also require ramps.

Greater Independence and Quality of Life Through Improved Mobility 

Figuring out how to improve mobility in elderly people can be challenging. A lot will depend on the needs of the individual, the kinds of mobility aids that are available to them, and their budget. It may be a trial-and-error process, especially as the individual ages and their physical capabilities change. That said, figuring out how to maintain your independence through improved mobility is worth it, and there are plenty of ways to meet any senior’s mobility needs.

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