"We don't stop moving because we age. We age because we stop moving"
One other significant factor in fall risk for seniors is the decrease in regular physical activity and exercise that is so important to their ability to remain mobile and independent.
Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass we are all subject to - starting at around age 40 - unless we take measures to minimize that loss.
The decreased muscle mass in seniors also dictates their need for more protein than younger adults which can become a challenge if they are not eating as much as they used to. A poor diet is also a cause as it directly contributes to lack of energy and thus, a decreased willingness and/or ability to exercise.
Signs and Symptoms
Less muscle mass has a direct and negative impact on mobility in a number of ways:
Less storage capacity for water. With less water, muscles can't make more protein and protein loss is sped up.
Less storage capacity for glycogen. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose which is needed for energy. Less energy means a decrease in stamina.
Reduced ability to generate heat. This contributes to seniors being more sensitive to cooler temperatures, along with loss of the insulating effect of body fat, and causing them to turn up the thermostat to compensate.
Decrease in mass of stabilizer muscles such as abdominal, back, gluteals and major muscles of the legs.
Diet should be reviewed first, as this directly impacts their ability to exercise. Their GP can refer your loved one to a dietician, if you have concerns, to ensure they are getting the right types and amounts of nutrients. A well-balanced, nutrient dense diet will give them the energy they need to pursue regular exercise.
A discussion with their GP - including a full physical it it's been a while - will flag any pain issues they may be having so that a plan can be put in place to manage their symptoms and identify appropriate exercises.
Modified exercise programs exist that cater to senior with condition such as arthritis, heart issues or challenges with balance. Water aerobics, and seated versions of tai chi, aerobics and weight training are options that can allow your loved one to exercise safely and pain-free.
Aside from making it easier on the joints, a bonus of water aerobics is the resistance of the water, making this an excellent way to get their heart rate up, strengthen muscles - all while providing the opportunity to get out of the house and socialize with others in the community.
© Nancy Glover | Aging With Grace www.AgingwithGrace.ca
Do you need help with setting up a plan to ensure your parent or spouse gets enough exercise?
Contact Nancy to inquire about a Caregiver Action Plan assessment where all aspects of care are reviewed in order to help families create a more dynamic and positive experience for the care of their loved ones.
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Nancy Glover, a healthy aging advocate, mentors extraordinary women and men who have stepped into the challenging role of caring for their elderly spouse or parent by managing their well-being in the later stages of life. Blending first-hand expertise with practical step by step systems to support the needs, goals, and desires of the elderly spouse or parent, Nancy helps caregivers maneuver the complex and often challenging role with supportive advocacy and resources that equally focus on everyone’s well-being. Learn more about her at www.agingwithgrace.ca and sign up to receive timely information and strategies to empower caregivers and families in transition.