Mobility problems in older adults are becoming an increasingly bigger problem. According to Frontiers in Physiology, mobility limitations have been reported to affect “about 35% of persons aged 70 and the majority of persons over 85 years.” Maintaining optimal mobility can help older adults’ physical and mental health. It is important to learn about the signs, risks, and preventative actions one can take to lessen any mobility issues you or a loved one may be facing.
What are the signs of mobility problems?
Several physical indications can point to increasing mobility problems. If you or a loved one are having more and more trouble sitting or standing up, this can be a sign of loss of muscle force. BioMed Central states that starting around the age of 25, our maximum muscle power decreases eight percent per decade. This decline commonly impacts lower muscle groups, such as the knees, hips, and ankles. Trouble balancing, muscle fatigue, and feeling unsteady on your feet are clear signs of diminishing mobility.
Reduced physical movement and reaction times are other key signs to note. The maximum walking speed of adults decreases with age, including one’s cadence uphill, downhill, and while climbing stairs. Decreased oxygen consumption and fewer steps per day can further contribute to the issue. Reactions times for both the upper and lower parts of the body also increase with age, and this slower execution increases one’s likelihood of injury due to fall. An observation of how quickly one responds to a stimulus can be a good judgement of reaction time.
Keep a close eye on your personal health and the wellbeing of loved ones. These symptoms are just a few examples of the many signs of increased mobility issues.
What are the risks of mobility problems?
Decreasing mobility often results in instability while walking, difficulty getting in and out of chairs, and muscle or joint aches and pain. The main reason for decreased mobility is change in gait, balance, bone density, and physical strength. This can lead to falls, broken bones, and fear of moving around.
Not only are there physical risks to decreasing mobility, but psychological and social risks as well. Fear of falling or moving around freely can cause the elderly to self-isolate and not leave their home or seek any type of social interaction. This type of self-isolation creates a negative feedback loop, limiting the amount of physical activity they are getting which then causes weaker muscles and joints, making the mobility problem worse. These psychological risks can have long-term effects and are important to recognize early on.
How can you prevent loss of mobility?
If you see a loved one or patient with heightened mobility challenges, encourage physical activity to maintain bone and muscle strength. This may be difficult for people who have previously fallen or feel unsteady on their feet but encouraging any type of physical movement can help prevent future falls. Even adopting a daily walking regimen keeps the blood pumping.
There are also several exercises you can encourage your loved one to try to improve balance, such as stretching, yoga, and body weight shifts. Physical therapy can also lower the risk of injury, alleviate discomfort from chronic pain, and teach techniques on how to get up if they ever fall. This can give your loved one extra peace of mind that is needed to maintain an independent, healthy lifestyle.
Be sure to discuss any mobility issues with a healthcare provider in case the problem stems from underlying medical conditions. For example, poor eyesight or hearing are common mobility impairments that cause physical disorientation, so make sure your loved one is up-to-date on all annual appointments.
Lastly, minimize fall hazards in the home so your loved one can move freely. Floor hazards can range from cable wires and area rugs to stacks of household items (such as books, clothes, or shoes), so check that walking paths are clear from obstructions. You can also add extra stability support around staircases, bathrooms, and bedrooms, if needed. Decorative grab bars are the perfect solution to meet your safety needs while complementing existing décor.
For more necessary precautions to prevent falls around the home and recommended balance exercises, refer to our previous article: Safety Tips to Celebrate National Falls Prevention Week.
Mobility problems among seniors are becoming more and more prominent. Start taking proactive steps today to maintain optimal mobility and prevent future falls.