senior couple doing yoga outsideFor seniors, limited mobility can have serious drawbacks. Whether through age or disability, this condition not only affects physical health but can also have an impact on emotional and mental wellbeing.

Ultimately, these factors can lower one’s quality of life. Whether for yourself or a loved one, here’s what you should know about limited mobility for seniors and tips to keep active.

What is Limited Mobility?

In general, signs of reduced mobility include the need for assistance to stand up, walk a short distance or climb stairs. Limited or complete immobility can arise from experiencing an injury or pain when attempting everyday tasks.

In all instances, these restrictions present an obstacle to independence. Physically, limited mobility has two forms:

  • Joint mobility, or the movement of specific joints. Individuals who feel pain when flexing or bending, have experienced a joint injury or restricted range of motion in one or more joints tend to have reduced mobility without assistance.
  • Total-body mobility encompasses how joints, muscles, coordination and balance work together. Factors like posture, decreased flexibility and core strength can impact walking and standing, which lower one’s ability to move freely.

Based on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, mobility is the most pervasive disability among Americans, affecting 40 percent of the population age 65 and older.

Many seniors report difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Secondarily, these physical limits can lead to:

  • Feelings of isolation and depression
  • A higher risk for fall-related injuries, which can cause additional damage
  • Inability to access help, including walking to the door or making a phone call

For certain seniors, solutions to improve mobility can be expensive, if not cost prohibitive. Prior to seeking long-term care, strategies may include installing a stairlift, using a scooter and going to physical therapy.

Addressing Limited Mobility

To address and help reduce the possibility of limited mobility with age, it’s recommended that seniors take the following actions.

Participate in Daily Exercise

Exercise can be a catch-22 for seniors. While a daily physical routine is essential to combat reduced mobility, existing joint issues and other physical limitations can pose challenges to staying active.

The goal of exercise should be to find some degree of stability and be able to walk comfortably. To achieve this, older adults should incorporate a combination of:

  • Balance exercises to reduce potential fall-related injuries. Tai chi and yoga are popular options for seniors because they also involve stretching and breathing exercises.
  • Strength training to build muscles and simultaneously increase metabolism.
  • Stretching to reduce muscle or joint injuries and allow for a full range of motion.
  • Cardio, aerobic and endurance exercises to help increase heart rate and the amount of oxygen traveling to the muscles and brain. Aside from walking, hiking and biking, water aerobics and swimming are ideal because they place less strain on the joints.

Monitor Diet and Weight

To prevent mobility issues and help those already with restricted motion, a protein-rich diet is recommended. Certain health conditions like obesity can limit leg movement and place greater strain on your joints.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one strategy to help ensure you’ll continue to move well with age. In addition to diet, get regular exercise and continue to monitor existing health problems like diabetes.
At West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center, we understand the impact diet and exercise can have on senior health outcomes. We emphasize these factors through our long-term care services and therapeutic recreation activities. To learn more, contact us today.