Do your retirement goals include traveling the world, learning a new instrument, or seeing more of your family? How about something more basic like staying mobile? Or remaining independent? While the first few loftier goals may require more money and time, it’s the latter that you really have to work at as you age. For seniors, mobility can vanish in an instant – with a fall or injury, with an illness, or by simply remaining inactive.
In addition to daily exercise, what actions and tools can truly maximize mobility as you age?
Check out these top 5 ideas:
Even seemingly harmless falls can be detrimental to long term mobility. With 1 in 3 seniors over 65 experiencing a fall, oftentimes in their own home, fall prevention is a must. A simple fall can result in hip fractures, joint and muscle strains, bruising, and even hospitalization. And recovery periods may involve some time of inactivity and physical therapy to get back to walking again. Basic fall prevention tips and tools include:
- Clear away clutter and trip hazards from your living environment
- Wear well-fitting shoes that power strong movements
- Get your eyes checked to make sure your vision isn’t impairing your mobility
- Install rails and grab bars on stair cases and in bathrooms
- Add lighting or guide tape to trickier environments like stairways or ramps
- Monitor medicine for side effects like dizziness or drowsiness
- Find the best reacher tool for picking up items off the floor or high shelves
Trying a Brace or Insert
Is osteoarthritis or foot pain keeping you from getting up and around as much as you would like? Limited mobility due to pain can be frightening. Close to 55% of people over the age of 50 experience the effects of osteoarthritis (inflammation targeted to joints at the ends of bones). Some knee braces are designed specifically to stabilize the joint at the knee and apply compression to relieve inflammation and encourage mobility.
In the same vein, orthotic inserts like those for plantar fasciitis pain can help normalize body mechanics and alleviate severe foot pain that was keeping you on the couch. Talk with your doctor about foot, joint, or muscle pain that is preventing you from exercising and getting out as much as you would like to see if a brace or insert could provide non-pharmacological aid.
Getting a Mobility Aid
Aren’t walking aids a death sentence for mobility? Quite the opposite actually. Mobility aids like canes, knee scooters, and walkers are more like empowerment tools. Engineered to support movements, aid in some weight bearing, and alleviate pain associated with walking, mobility aids encourage more mobility, not less. Signs you might want to discuss mobility aids with your doctor include:
- Trouble standing or sitting down
- Difficulty walking or standing for more than 10 minutes at a time
- Leg or foot pain when standing or walking
- Loss of balance and coordination when standing
- Exhaustion with simple movements like walking up stairs or grocery shopping
- Experiencing frequent falls
Staying on your own two feet well into your 90s means being vigilant about your own mobility and recognizing any signs that could mean trouble. Securing a mobility aid at the first sign of difficulty could add years to your walking life – helping you continue to exercise regularly and engage with others socially, both actions which cycle back into a healthy lifestyle that fosters strong mobility.
Modifying Your Diet
How can a tool like a high-powered blender or water filter affect your mobility? Exercise means little without the backing of a diet which supports heart, brain, and muscle health. Tools that make consuming vital nutrients and minerals easier, and which help you stay hydrated, are indirect supporters of mobility. Bone loss is a natural occurrence with age, but a calcium-rich diet can help combat bone loss and strengthen bones for walking – think milk, sardines, yogurt, broccoli and cheese. Healthy Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like wild salmon, almonds, coconut oil, and avocado boost brain health and combat cognitive decline which helps keep you moving. And protein-rich foods like lean meats, whole grains, legumes, cottage cheese, and eggs fuel muscle growth and repair.
Just as important as what you eat is staying hydrated – older adults are known to go hours without thinking of drinking a glass of water – you simply don’t get thirsty as much. Dehydration can quickly spiral into confusion, exhaustion, and even hospitalization, which means mobility falls to the wayside. A water filter or reusable water bottle that cues your brain to fill up regularly throughout the day can not only boost hydration, but keep you alert, attentive and mobile.
Remaining mobile well into your Golden Years isn’t simply the product of good genes or good luck – it takes work, body awareness, and a keen sense of self-care. Eating right, exercising, and finding the right tools (whether it’s a knee brace or quad cane) to encourage your continued mobility is always worth the effort.