How older adults are able to move around is more important than you probably imagine.
It’s easy to understand that all of us humans around here would, of course, want the ability to walk around the block, get ourselves some lunch, and spend some time with loved ones in a social setting. But just how important is that?
Do we, as a society, take for granted exactly what quality of life affects? It’s not just a measure of pleasure for the individual. Quality of life affects economic and social aspects of the larger community, the healthcare sector, staff, and other personnel support.
The Consequences: What Immobility Looks Like
When a senior loses mobility, something so very common in our older adult population, many elements of their life start to spiral downward. A cascade of consequences each begins to tip into the one other, socially, psychologically, and physically.
1. When a person can’t get up and around, they begin to lose things. They lose precious time spent with friends. They lose opportunities to interact with the outside world. They begin to lose their confidence and self-esteem.
2. What they begin to build instead, incurs significant costs. They begin to build dependence on structures like ramps, railings, and equipment. They begin to need tools like walkers and canes. They begin to require more and more assistance from others to get to the everyday places they would want to go, like up out of a chair and to the refrigerator. Lastly, they begin to depend on people to take care of them for basic needs like brushing hair and bathing.
3. These unfortunate changes can easily spiral into reclusive behavior, unintentional introversion, being stuck at home or in a room, or a bed. Without regular movement, interaction, and even a basic level of independence, depression sets in.
4. With this sedentary physicality often comes medical issues. Bone and hip fractures from falling can become a serious issue very quickly. A person may begin to suffer incontinence just because the person can’t get up and to the bathroom. Subsequently, they’re more likely to get urinary tract infections, irritated skin, and infections.
5. Current Geriatric Reports, that review all current research, reports that the greater the loss of mobility, the more the morbidity and mortality go up.
As administrators, it’s critical to review your procedures and protocols around mobility support and maintenance for your community members. It’s critical for budgets, staff hours, personnel training, and lest we forget, the simple enjoyment of life by the residents.
What the Research Says
Back in 2013, the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed the studies of the past many years around mobility studies. They found the main factors related to immobility. Many are fairly obvious. Sadly, many are also very common.
2. Low physical activity
4. Impaired strength and balance
5. Chronic diseases: (Diabetes, Arthritis)
Given the gravity of these common red flags, it would be easy to assume regular checkups by physicians would lead to education and support of seniors to avoid these negative outcomes. Unfortunately, because pulmonary and cardiac conditions take the main stage in screenings, mobility often gets pushed so far back, it’s often completely ignored in doctor visits.
The CDC recommends the simple “Timed Up and Go Test,” or TUG. Where a person is timed getting up from their chair, walking in a line, walking back, and sitting back down again. It’s an easy and accurate measure for someone's mobility. Even this quick test, however, is usually skipped at appointments.
There's a Solution
If you’re like most senior living center administrator’s you want to have happy residents, happy staff, and a balanced budget. Putting time and effort into improving and maintaining the mobility of your residents is an easy “pinch of prevention” for “a pound of cure.”
Attention on mobility, before issues begin to set it, will save the most. That said, giving residents support at any stage in mobility loss will earn gains in happiness, staff hours, as well as the bottom line.
The list below shows the critical elements in improving the mobility of older adults:
1. Strength Training
2. Balance Improvement
3. Increasing Flexibility
4. Endurance Programs
5. Social Support
6. Tool Use (canes, wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers)
Traditionally, a generalized program for strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance has been employed by senior living centers. This, however, as found and reviewed by Current Geriatrics Report, results in only a slight improvement in walking*, just around 5 percent.
*Walking is often used as the measure for overall mobility. This is because ambulation is actually a very complex task. It demands coordination of the cardiopulmonary, nervous, as well as musculoskeletal system.
While multi-component impairment-based walking exercises are excellent for wellbeing as they enhance strength, flexibility, and endurance, the surprising finding is that they don’t necessarily lead to better walking. Instead, the end result of specific task-based motor learning walking exercises is the coordination and timing to achieve better walking ability.
What this means, is that if your seniors need better skill at walking, they need to practice walking with skill-based exercise rather than multi-component exercise alone.
HUR Equipment Can Help
HUR equipment is exclusively focused on the older adult skill set. Their equipment is easy on and off. It starts with a zero loading weight. It’s equipped with range limiters. They follow the natural movement of the muscles and joints. HUR has been Redefining Rehab, since its beginning.
Some of the machinery that HUR has designed actually tracks individual performance. This means there’s no guesswork as to whether the program is working or not. One can print out the results and see for themselves. HUR is results-driven and that’s what administrators need to look for when designing mobility support in their centers. Measured results are the only way to know if the program is having the desired effect.
4 Keys to the Success of Your Mobility Program
Given that balance is one of the most important aspects of walking, HUR’s SmartBalance machine can be revolutionary. Individuals can have enjoyable, interactive, training sessions and see for themselves how it’s working and how they’re doing.
2. LOWER BODY
Resistance training in the lower body’s major muscle groups maximizes mobility. Seniors can focus on the leg extension and curl to build quadriceps and hamstring, endurance, and strength.
Getting the hips and butt into the program will help reduce falls and improve walking as well as posture.
3. THE CORE
Most of the body’s natural movement stems from or is supported by the core. Including resistance training on these muscle groups will improve the foundation of a strong, balanced gait.
It’s a defeating myth that older adults can’t put on more muscle.
While residents that have strength trained their whole life may not be able to gain more muscle, they can maintain their baselines. Those seniors who haven’t resistance trained seriously can actually gain muscle and strength to regain mobility. That’s great news!
Working with trainers and therapists will yield even greater results and faster.
4. DON’T FORGET TO STRETCH
The ability of the body’s tendons and muscles to lengthen in response to movement allows the joints to move through their range of motion. Therefore stretching the legs, hips, back, neck, and arms will help maintain flexibility, increase circulation, improve balance and coordination, and help with muscle control. It will also reduce soreness, risk of injury, and help release tension.
Getting your staff and residents to focus on how mobility will improve the lives of the entire community, lends itself to even greater support from the entire center population. After all, good things breed more good things. Greater independence and a reduction of assistance are the tangible results you're looking for in your residents. HUR equipment can help.
It’s never too late for your residents to start training, get up, and get moving!
Strength is Ageless.