Getting Prepared for the Next Decade – Avoiding Deconditioning
Margaret Woltjer, Ph.D. | November 19, 2009

Not long ago I was having lunch with a group of nurses at one of our area senior facilities and the conversation moved in the direction of what they have found to be the most important health-related issues among the residents they cared for. They were almost unanimous in their agreement that maintaining strength and balance were essential to remaining healthy and independent for as long as possible. As someone who has worked with older people for many years, I completely agree with them.

One thing I’ve observed is that when older people move out of their homes into one of these residences, they become too sedentary. While still living at home they had to reach up into cupboards, carry items from room to room, and walk throughout the house and yard to take care of their responsibilities. Once they move into a facility, their space is smaller and more is done for them, so they seldom have to reach and carry, and the distance they have to walk is usually shorter. They also tend to put on weight.

When anyone, regardless of age, is sedentary for too long they undergo something the medical profession calls “deconditioning”. It means that the muscles become weak and the health of the cardiopulmonary system declines. Balance is also affected, not just because the muscles are weaker, but because reflexes become slower, leaving the person at risk if needing to move quickly to correct his balance. Many of the falls that occur at senior facilities happen because of this problem.

As a very large group of us now face the inevitable march into that phase of life when we will be called senior citizens, let’s be smart about the choices we make. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of eating healthy and making exercise as much of a part of your lifestyle as brushing your teeth and combing your hair. Believe me; you’ll be glad you did.

In addition to exercises that can improve the cardiovascular system, here are a few biomechanics tips that can reduce the strain on vulnerable joints:

  • Don’t hold objects in a tight grip for long periods of time – learn to flex your fingers frequently when working on projects such as knitting, woodworking, or even cooking;

  • If you experience arthritis pain in your hands, use an electric can opener instead of a manual one; try an electric mixer instead of your hands for beating cake batter; use a battery operated toothbrush;

  • Place items on lower shelves if you suffer from shoulder pain so that you don’t over-reach for often used items;

  • Practice good posture so that less stress is placed on your joints;

  • Learn to use the largest joints in your body to accomplish tasks. For example using a purse with a shoulder strap is easier than carrying a clutch bag because the shoulder joints are larger than finger joints and can take the pressure;

  • Try to keep joints stretched and extended rather than bent;

  • Do not remain in the same position for extended periods of time – stretch often;

  • Learn to use items like a shoe horn to facilitate putting on shoes and purchase tennis shoes with velcro rather than shoelaces. It can save you a lot of time and reduce frustration.

These changes can help prolong the use of joints that frequently undergo the most wear-and-tear over years of hard use. The more you can reduce pain, the longer you can use those joints, and the less likely you will be to suffer from deconditioning.
BBBOnLine Reliability Seal © 2011 Better Life Unlimited™
A division of Better Life Institute © (BLI, Inc.)
 Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
SecurityMetrics Credit Card Safe