Several different strategies can help keep the body active, even though the ageing process brings about limitations to your movement.
Advisors María Francisca Echeverri Harry – MD, Geriatrician, Internal Medicine
Natalia Vlásquez – Nurse
Movement is related to vitality and that is why it is essential that no human being loose the desire to remain active, not even when the passage of time, for any given circumstances, leads to a reduced mobility. When this happens, it is key to seek support from professionals and the family, also keeping in mind that stillness is not a friend to health.
“It is important to make clear that mobility is reduced but not finished. The difference lies in those parts of the body that can move actively. If my capacity to move from one place to another has been affected, I must exercise the trunk of my body, the arms or the neck,” as Geriatrician and Internal Medicine Doctor María Francisca Echeverri indicates precisely.
When there is absolute stillness other difficulties that affect our mental and physical health may arise. Practicing some physical activity and exercising prevents the muscles of the body from atrophy, avoids pain, hinders weight gain or going into depression. “Controlling all of this is basic for our daily activities and contributes to our feeling independent,” explains our Medical Geriatrician.
To orient the body toward maintaining the desire to move, there are physical supports worthy of trying out and getting to know, with the guidance of health professionals that recommend them. “I must look for the means to be able to move, whether with a walker, a walking stick or other external supports trying to avoid as long as possible the use of a wheel chair. Use of the same should be only at the behest of a doctor after a surgery,” suggests Doctor Echeverri Harry.
Work on your self-esteem
Another way of being active, even if mobility is reduced, is working our self-esteem and accepting the coming on of our elderly life as part of the human condition. “I always stimulate people to look at themselves in the mirror when they are alone, in their underwear and to evaluate each part of their body, admiring it and being grateful for having it before saying “at this age, I cannot do it.” After that I encourage them to wear comfortable clothes, also in front of the mirror, move to the rhythm of some song feeling that their body is alive and, what’s even better, that it feels and obeys,” she explains.
Our expert adds that when this recognition occurs one can also identify the part of the body that is weak or slow in order to begin taking precautions.
“One can change shoes, remove rugs, improve the lighting in the house, adapt the bathroom to our capacities, use eyeglasses or hearing aids if we need them in order to be able to move better in the different environments where life elapses,” she reassures us.
Likewise, it is important to go out on the street and engage in activities where one can socialize and enjoy such as dancing, because rhythm can be followed with any part of the body. One can also choose other more unconventional activities such as equine assisted therapy that works our equilibrium. Also handcrafts and exercises in physiotherapy that help tone the muscles that can still move.
The World Health Organization promotes physical activity at all stages of life. For people over 65 years of age recommended are 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic physical activities as these help reduce the risk of non- transmissible chronic illnesses, depression and cognitive deterioration.
There are also passive and assisted exercises for those who present with difficulty to carry out their movements in an autonomous way. Among others there are special thera bands for the arms and for giving greater mobility to the abdominal muscles as well as practicing respiratory exercises to amplify lung capacity. Also, there are exercises for the neck and for flexibility according to the person’s capacity as well as performing assisted exercises for the legs.
“The most recommended activities are those one is capable of carrying out. Despite the difficulty at hand, one can get into a pool, go walking on different pathways; this is motivating for our state of mind,” our specialist points out. In any case, it is about keeping the desire to move alive and be active in order to remain vital.
When patients require support because their mobility is at a minimum, it is worthwhile to follow Nurse Natalia Velasquez’s advice for caretakers and relatives of these elderly adults in that situation:
- Play some music and talk to them so that they feel they are still very important for their families and thus avoid a decline in their mindset.
- Learn techniques to move them so their mobility does not depend only on the nurses.
- Touch their skin in order to promote circulation and stimulate them with affection.
- Accompany them in the process of personal cleaning.
- Hydrate the skin constantly to avoid bedsores or dryness.
- Put bars or non-skid rugs in the bathrooms.
- Respect their intimacy. Treat them with affection and care.