The freedom and renewed vitality that retirement offers is most strongly linked to your ability to stay active as you age. Retaining your independence and mobility shouldn’t be based on luck; in fact, there are a handful of preventative and empowering things you can do now that will keep you ambulatory in the years to come:
With 1 in 3 seniors over 65 experiencing a fall, this is a huge factor when it comes to the discussion of mobility. Preventing falls and therefore hip and leg fractures, sprains, strains and other injuries means preventing many of the causes of immobility. When preventing falls, don’t forget to:
- Remove clutter and other items around the home which might trip you
- Add reflective guide tape around doorways, stairs and ledges
- Install grab bars and assistive equipment to traverse stairs and tricky environments
- Wear proper fitting shoes with tread that power fluid movement
- Add non-slip mats to slick kitchen, bathroom & hardwood floors
Use a Mobility Aid
Experiencing difficulty walking? Is standing for longer than 10 minutes at a time uncomfortable or painful? Rather than resigning oneself to spend most of the day sitting or lying down, taking advantage of a mobility aid could be your key to staying active.
Mobility aids are simply assistive devices or equipment, like canes, walkers and knee scooters, that aid you in getting around by supporting your weight and easing your ability to maneuver multiple environments. Spending any significant amount of time off your feet is actually one of the worst things you can do as you age, leading to weight gain, muscle inflammation and pain, and heart disease, among other things.
Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about your trouble walking or frequent falling, and ask if a mobility aid is right for you. Oftentimes insurance will cover them with a doctor’s order, or you can buy gently used ones or lease them, like with knee scooter rentals.
Physical activity seems almost antithetical as adults age. Won’t exercising cause injuries that will be harder to heal from? Isn’t exerting myself worse for my older heart and organs? The honest answer: absolutely not. Exercising is actually more important as you age than it was when you were younger.
Why? The health benefits (including maintaining mobility) of routine fitness are even more powerful in retirement because they far outweigh the risks of not exercising. Exercise strengthens muscles as older bodies start to lose muscle mass, it can reverse bone loss which causes osteoporosis, and it helps older adults maintain a healthy weight and heart function as metabolism slows and risks for heart disease and obesity go up.
Engaging, low-impact exercise practices like swimming, yoga, ballroom dancing, playing tennis, brisk walks, and light weightlifting are a great place to start. In addition to physically benefiting your bones and muscles, regular exercise helps lower blood pressure, reduces joint and muscle inflammation, powers healthy sleep, and boosts overall mood.
Get Mental Practice
How can brain stimulation and task-based activity help with your mobility? Your balance, coordination, and memory are crucial components to getting around safely and with ease. Hobbies and games that employ fine motor skills (like quilting, crocheting and Chess) help older adults retain hand eye coordination skills that enable stronger movement and reach as you age.
In addition, mental exercises that stimulate brain function and energize neural pathway connections can help combat dementia and Alzheimer’s - memory loss diseases that can negatively affect day to day function and mobility.
Staying mobile in your Golden Years isn’t a matter of crossing your fingers and wishing for the best. Act now and take the simple but effective steps towards retaining your mobility through exercise, fall prevention, and the use of aids and support - in ten years, you’ll be glad you did!
This is a guest blog entry.