It is an emotional moment when you clearly recognize that the adults that raised you – are now elderly. The elderly in my life, were once active adults who helped to get me to the very moment I am at – right now ! When this happens, you will realize the many things you can no longer ask; things they did for you 20,25,30 years ago. When this happens, you must go through a process of adjusting your expectations. The trick is to do so without judgment. The next step, is to find other ways to enjoy their company and reciprocate the love and patience they showed you when you were younger. One act of kindness is to help the elderly in your life stay mobile. Your ability to move and be active has a robust impact on the quality of life. It is common for the elderly to simply stop moving. Even a normal amount of frailty can lead to discomfort, which leads to becoming sedentary. It is important to find as many ways as possible to encourage the elderly in your life to exercise. Exercise for the elderly should focus on the most common functional movements. Sitting, standing, reaching, stairs, stepping down, picking things up, rotating and walking are the most important movements for everyone to maintain as they age. It is the inability to comfortably do these functional movements that lead to weakness and instability. Falls are the number 8 cause of death of adults over 65 years old or 55% of accidental deaths. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics clarify that 85% of unintentional injuries lead to death. Loss of balance, less mobility and slower reflexes easily lead to accidental injuries. But even if death is not the result, it is the critical loss of mobility and strength that leads to so many painful injuries that dramatically lessen the quality of life. This can be a critical turning point for an older adult. The pain and dependence that results from injuries like a broken hip, ankle or wrist can break a person’s spirit and requires a tremendous amount of dedication to reach a state of full rehabilitation.
Here are three very basic functional exercises that help with functional strength for an older adult.
Chair Squats, Leg Swings and Knee Lifts Since getting up from a seated position becomes very challenging for some older adults, I suggest doing chair squats.
- Begin by firmly planting both feet on the ground.
- Do not do this exercise if you are experiencing dizziness.
- Lift your chest tall as you stand.
- Look up and out in front (not down) of you when standing and sitting.
- Start with 1-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
The second exercise I love for the elderly are leg swings. They are great for improving balance and joint stability. First, stand up tall and hold onto a stable surface.
- Hold your core tight.
- Swing your leg 6-9 inches off the ground. This is meant to be a gentle movement. It is not a barre class.
- The movement should not be painful.
- Pick 2 or 3 different directions for the leg swings. Do 5-10 reps in each direction.
- Switch sides when your supporting leg gets tired or fatigued.
The third exercise is the knee lift. It will also help with the core strength needed to go up stairs.
- Begin by holding onto a stable surface to assist with balance.
- While maintaining tall posture engage your core. Think about pulling and lifting your belly button back towards your spine.
- Lift one knee up and down to a comfortable height.
- During the knee lift, fold our leg in half.
I am not sure who said it, but to care for someone who once care for you is the highest honor you can be given.