The ability of seniors and the elderly to remain mobile and independent becomes very important to them as they age. Using the right senior mobility aids can help them avoid slips, trips and falls which result in fractures that invariably land them in the hospital.
While some reduction of mobility with age is normal, more than one in three people who are 65 years or older have falls each year as the risk of falling with fall-related injuries increasing with age.
Mobility can affect not only physical well-being but also emotional and social well-being.
Having Strong Bones Can Prevent Falls
Strong healthy bones can represent the difference between minor discomfort or the breaking of a hip or other bone which require a trip to emergency in the hospital, prolonged hospitalization, disability, or even death.
Physical exercise or some form of activity in addition to recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D help maintain strong bones.
Other ways to maintain bone health include limiting consumption of alcohol, and quitting smoking which can decrease bone mass and increase the chance of fractures.
Furthermore, being underweight is known to increase the risk of bone loss and broken bones.
Finally, for people with osteoporosis, even a minor fall may be dangerous because it is a disease that makes bones weak and more likely to break.
Causes and Risk Factors for Falls
Many things can cause a fall.
- Diminished eyesight, hearing, and reflexes
- Muscle weakness
- Illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease,
- Problems with balance and gait
- Thyroid or nervous problems
- Foot problems that cause pain due to uncomfortable footwear can also increase the risk of falling due to poor circulation
- Some medications can cause side effects like dizziness or confusion and the greater the number of medications taken, the increased likelihood of falls
- Presence of safety hazards in the home or environment
- Poor lighting in the home
- Postural hypotension – a sharp drop in blood pressure when getting up from a sitting or lying position
- Confusion from waking up in an unfamiliar environment
Lifestyle Habits Can Help with Mobility
Good lifestyle habits can assist with mobility by building and maintaining muscle strength and stabilizing balance. They include the following:
A Healthy Diet
Eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties like spinach, berries, fatty fish like salmon, nuts and olive oil help the muscles and joints, as inflammation can lead to stiffness and pain. On the other hand, foods that trigger inflammation include fried foods, red meat and sugary food and drinks.
Without activity, muscles can weaken, leading to a decrease in balance and coordination with a greater risk of falls. Regular exercise strengthens the muscles and keeps the joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible.
Staying active even with simple, low-impact movement like walking for 30 minutes a day five times a week is an effective way to maintain mobility with age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mild weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis.
Swimming is another recommended activity because water makes movement easier on joints and provides full-body support while tai chi can be a good low-impact activity for maintaining balance, improving stability, reducing joint pain and more.
Stretching is another recommended activity irrespective of exercise. Stretching for 10 minutes a day can help strengthen muscles with aging, improve flexibility and release muscle tension.
With aging, muscles and bones can weaken. To preserve bone mass and density, research supports the consumption of daily amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins D and K recommended by the Food and Drug Administration.
Regular Eye and Hearing Tests
This is necessary because even minor changes in sight and hearing may trigger an unexpected fall
Check For Side Effects of Any Medications Taken
Always be vigilant to note if a drug causes drowsiness or dizziness and consult your healthcare provider.
Get Enough Sleep Each Day
Inadequate daily sleep can bring about drowsiness which can cause slips, trips or falls.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Even limited amounts of alcohol can affect balance. This becomes even more pronounced if balance problems were already present.
Walking and Standing
Be very careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces. Do not walk on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles. Rubber soles should not be too thin or thick.
Stand up slowly from a sitting position because getting up too quickly can bring about a drop in blood pressure which can affect balance.
Senior Mobility Aids Can Improve Reduced Mobility – Available Types
Use an assistive device if you need help feeling steady when you walk. Appropriate use of canes and walkers can prevent falls.
If this is recommended by the doctor, ensure that your purchase is the right size for you and the wheels roll smoothly.
There are several types of mobility aids. They generally fall into the following four categories:
These are also called trekking poles and are often used for temporary assistance while on walks or hikes.
They are not true mobility aids, but accessories for maintaining balance and some support while active.
Some adults use walking sticks on uneven surfaces or terrain, because they help distribute the weight of the load they are carrying on an additional touchpoint with the ground. Walking sticks do not typically have handles.
Canes are often used after injuries that cause reduced strength or impairment and help improve stability by providing an additional point of contact with the ground during movement.
They are designed to be comfortable and height-adjustable, and they feature different types of handles and varied weight-bearing abilities.
The most common types of canes include standard canes, offset canes and quad canes.
Are usually made of metal, have four legs, sometimes with wheels or glides, and provide balance assistance for people who may have weakness in one or both of their lower extremities.
Some senior walking aids have two-wheeled legs in the front and padded legs in back to keep the walker from rolling unintentionally.
The amount of stability assistance required should guide the number of wheels on a walker. Walkers are usually height adjustable, and they also come in sizes for users with taller or smaller sizes.
A rollator has similar design to a walker but comes with three or four wheels, a seat and brakes and is more stable and beneficial to those who have difficulty walking long distances.
The seat allows the user to take short rest breaks.
The user no longer needs to lift the mobility aid providing greater ease moving around. In many cases the seat also has a basket which is used to hold items as well.
The three-wheeled rollator is an effective mobility aid for users who are having trouble moving their feet forward.
It shares the same features with the four-wheeled rollator except that it does not have a seat that allows the user to sit down.
Conclusion – Senior Mobility Aids
Using the right senior and elderly mobility aids can help prevent falls and broken bones.
NIH 2017 Prevent Falls and Fractures https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/prevent-falls-and-fractures
Gell et al. 2015 Mobility device use in older adults and incidence of falls and worry about falling: findings from the 2011-2012 national health and aging trends study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 63(5):853-859.