As we age, our bodies change, and moving around isn’t as easy as it once was. The best way to stay mobile is to not stop in the first place. We can’t always control what happens to our bodies – genetics, long term health conditions or trauma can change our abilities to stay mobile. It’s really important that you don’t give up and keeping looking for ways that work best for you to keep you as independent as long as possible.
There are several common factors that can lead to an inability to get around. Reduced mobility due to an existing medical condition, illness or injury. Older age, low physical activity, obesity, impaired strength and balance can all play a role. Some of the less obvious factors can include depression, memory problems, recent hospitalization, fear of falling.
Let’s first work out how mobile you already are before making a plan – ask yourself these 2 questions:
1 For health or physical reasons, do you have difficulty climbing up 10 steps or walk outside for a quarter of a mile?
2 Because of underlying health or physical reasons, have you modified the way you climb 10 steps or walk outside for a quarter of a mile?
If you answered yes, and climbing stairs or walking any distance is hard for you, don’t stop but accept that this is difficult. Start thinking about what can be done to avoid further restrictions to you daily moving and how to allow yourself or, if you are looking after someone, them more time to adjust to their surrounds and age safely in place.
Balance can become an issue as we age. We just aren’t as steady on our feet as we once were, and it makes falling more likely. Maintaining an active lifestyle and a healthy weight can help. Strength training is also a good way to improve your balance.
If exercise has been part of your daily routine since you were young, then make sure to keep walking, running, swimming – whatever it is – that keeps you moving. It’s not just about maintaining your health, it also helps ensure your independence for a lot longer.
Some falls can result in bumps or bruises, others lead to broken bones. Either way, it’s not something you want to do. Certain diseases, like diabetes, can make you more prone to fall.
Serious health events like a stroke can also make falling more likely. But sometimes, staying on your feet may be as simple as understanding the side effects of the medications you take. Some drugs can cause dizziness on their own or when coupled with another. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have fallen recently, feel dizzy often or are unsteady on your feet.
The Good News
There are some simple ways to protect yourself from falling at home:
– Make sure you have plenty of light in your house, so you can see where you are going.
– Keep your floors clutter free and either secure or remove loose rugs.
– A healthy balanced diet with plenty of vitamin D and calcium will help keep your bones strong.
– It’s also important to get your eyes checked annually. A change in your prescription can cause you to not see as well as you need to and take a tumble.
If you need something to help you get around, you’re not alone. Over 2 million households in the UK have some form of equipment adaptation and nearly one in four of the population over 65, will regularly use a mobility aid such as a walking stick, walker or rollator, wheelchair or scooter. And it’s not uncommon for someone to use more than one device.
What are some quality everyday devices for staying mobile?
Walking stick, cane
You can use a walking stick to give you extra support and help with your balance. It can give you the confidence to keep moving and make walking less painful.
There are many different types so be sure to check you choose one that is the correct height for you. Do you want left handed or right handed? Would a seat be useful so you can rest? We recommend you contact your local GP surgery and talk to your Doctor or Nurse.
Walking frame, zimmer frame or rollator
More support than a walking stick, these can be used around the home or out and about. You can borrow walking frames from the NHS so speak to you your GP, local hospital or healthcare professional. Visit your local mobility dealer who can also give specialist advice and let you try before you buy.
If you struggle to get about, recovering from an injury or are disabled, you can use a wheelchair. Short term use after an injury, you may be provided one free by your local hospital. There are local organisations like the Red Cross or Motability schemes who you can hire from.
When looking got purchase consider if you are going to push yourself or have someone else to help. How often and where you will need to use it – indoor, outdoors or both. Cost involved to maintain and repair.
A mobility scooter can be useful if you struggle to walk and need to travel a long distance. These are not available on the NHS. The Motability scheme can help if you want to hire or buy a scooter. It allows some people to use their benefits to pay for one. To find out more visit www.motability.co.uk
If climbing or descending your stairs has become difficult, there are a number of options that can make your life easier. The least popular choice is to consider moving to a single floor accommodation so that stairs are no longer part of your daily living.
A stair lift can be a practical and far more cost effective and long-term option. Choosing a stair lift should be done carefully as there is a lot to consider. What will fit your staircase, what type of stair lift will suit your needs, how much budget do you have – it is a good idea to speak to your GP or the healthcare professional you regular see as well as talking to your family. Friends may be able to recommend from their own experiences.
What other adaptive aids can help you around the home
There are a host of other gadgets that can help you stay in your home for as long as possible. Grab bars are fairly easy to install and you can put up as many as you like in your home. Usually fitted in the bathroom, near the toilet or the bath. The handles can be fixed permanently on the wall, or you can choose a type that uses suction cups, so you can take them with you when you travel. Not sure which grab rail is right for you – 2 handy guides to read
– Simple home adaptations – which grab rail to choose
– Where to fit a grab rail in your home
The bath can be an area of concern – getting in as well as getting out – and being able to change position whilst you wash. Bath board or shower boards allow you to sit over the bath whilst you wash. We’ve also introduced a range of shower seats that fold neatly out the way if someone else uses the bathroom too – click here for more information
Keep active keep moving
Maintaining your ability to move around freely or with little help doesn’t just help keep your independence. It’s good for your mental and emotional health. Not being able to go to the grocery or to another room in your house can really take its toll. Restricted mobility can easily lead to depression and isolation because we don’t like to be dependent on others for help. The truth is – there are people who love you and are willing to help you if you ask. Please don’t be afraid or too proud to get a device if you need one. It could be the difference in being able to stay in the home you love for longer.