How can we maintain mobility for healthy ageing even after falls and accidents?
Ageing is part of life but it’s hard to see our loved ones deteriorate in front of our eyes. Does it have to be like that or is it the more convenient lifestyle we’ve adopted that’s actually making us more susceptible to problems as we age?
The topic came up as I was watching this new documentary on Netflix called ‘Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones’. It was incredible to learn how our lifestyles but also places we come from and our environment (climate, social and cultural) have a huge impact on how well and how long we live. I highly recommend tuning in if you haven’t done so already.
As I was watching this show, I remembered how the mother of a close friend of mine had a pretty nasty fall last year and she hasn’t been the same since. It wasn’t so much the severity of the fall – thankfully she didn’t break any bones – but the loss of confidence around movement that came with it.
She used to walk every day without any support, up and down stairs without a second thought, regularly mingle with her friends, even go dancing and to jazz bars on her own. However, after the fall, she became a lot more sedentary. It was really sad seeing her go from a joyous and active woman to a rather fragile human who was ageing rapidly as each day went by.
After the fall, she had physio appointments but regularly skipped them. Doing those very simple exercises at home, that she was supposed to do, were also something she didn’t like talking about when asked.
I sat down with her one day and asked what it is that’s weighing on her the most in that moment. She shared that she is grieving her old life as she isn’t able to be as independent as she used to be. She cut down on her social interactions with friends because she is scared, she might fall again. This of course is creating social isolation and amplifies her sense of loneliness.
Maintaining mobility for healthy ageing is key to maintaining independence and for seniors, the loss of mobility could have profound physical, social and psychological consequences. These would be further amplified if the person is used to living on their own without needing any help.
Often, it’s the fear of falling again that’s holding them back rather than the actual physical ability to move again. It’s important to emphasise that if joints and muscles aren’t properly maintained, basic movements can cause pain or even injury in some cases.
When the body heals after a fall, gentle exercise could be reintroduced into the ageing person’s daily routine. This might require assistance initially, which could look like a physio session or just a simple walk with someone who is willing to assist if required. But it’s important the person impacted is regularly encouraged and the exercise becomes a daily habit, which is reinforced in ways it integrates into how they enjoy the flow of their days.
Anything forced or too prescribed will have the reverse effect. The motivation to get up and move is often tied to the emotional well-being of the person in question, which is also why encouragement often works better than force.
These would be our top tips for maintaining mobility for healthy ageing:
1. Start with gentle exercise
Introducing shorter burst activities rather than lengthy exercise routines to improve physical ability, these would be a few exercises we’d recommend:
- Bent leg raises for balance
Stand up whilst holding onto something and raise one leg with a bent knee up and down. This helps not only with balance but also mobilises the knee and keeps the joints lubricated. When you feel a bit stronger, you could start doing this exercise without holding on. Complete these leg raises on both sides.
- Side bends
This is a great exercise for the core and you can do it anywhere. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and place one hand behind your head and the other arm stretched out to one side. Lean over to the side of the stretched-out arm towards the floor. Come back again and swap sides.
- Lower back rotation stretches
A key element of your muscle skeletal strength is your spine. It is the centre and source of strength for many activities and the lower back in particular is the powerhouse of all movement. The benefit of stretching your lower back include improving your range of motion, reducing back pain and increasing flexibility. Stretching this area, especially in the morning, helps relieve tension and stiffness. Start by sitting on your chair in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor. Then twist your upper body so your shoulders rotate to one side first and then to the other. Hold each twist for 20 seconds. Repeat this as many times as it feels good for your body.
We’ve come across this short exercise video designed specifically for seniors for maintaining mobility for healthy ageing. If you get a chance to check it out, here is the link.
2. Hug your loved ones regularly
It’s been said that physical touch, especially hugs, can work wonders for someone’s mental health. If your ageing loved ones are spending a lot of time alone, receiving regular visits and hugs from someone who cares could make all the difference to their emotional well-being.
Receiving a gentle massage is also worth considering. Especially if it is something as simple as a palm massage or a scalp massage. Your loved ones will appreciate it.
3. Supporting their confidence through assistive technology
Over the years working with the elderly, we found that one of their key goals is to live independently longer and maintain their dignity. It was a story also close to our heart as we saw our ageing father go through his journey of growing old. We looked to technology to assist him as he was recovering from a stroke, which was the beginning of our story as a company 11 years ago.
Inspired by our father’s personal story, we launched the mCareWatch smartwatch to extend the help and support to others who were recovering from injuries or illness. Although the watch itself won’t improve mobility but it provides that crucial peace of mind and confidence that if something were to happen, there is a way to call for help.
Mobility for healthy ageing with assistive technology
This could be that next step for families after recovery is well underway and the person has gained back their sense of routine and joy but feels safer having a device such as the mCareWatch as their emergency personal alarm companion.
As a smartwatch that can make and receive calls, has an SOS button for emergencies and serves as a companion for reminders, which can be customised by loved ones, it becomes a powerful aid for peace of mind. This being for the elderly person but also for their family members who are able to monitor them via a mobile app and regularly check in by activating welfare checks through the device.
The mCareWatch has an in-built fall detection sensor, which can detect when the wearer has a fall. If it detects sudden movement, it will activate a voice command that says: “Fall detected. If you are OK, please tap the screen otherwise an SOS call with be made”.
The countdown will be 10 seconds and vibrate on the wrist.
If you don’t tap the screen/cancel the SOS, the watch will automatically make the SOS call to the first SOS contact.
Of course, this feature is to be viewed as a valuable aid rather than a failsafe. Technology may never replace the confidence and strength that exercise and emotional wellness facilitate, but it could become a nice companion for moments when help is needed.
Take steps now to make sure you or your loved ones can take the steps they need in the years ahead.