Lower Body Strength: Why it Matters for Seniors and What They Can Do to Maintain It

Written by James Fleming

Muscle loss and a lack of strength are common complaints among senior citizens. In fact, 5-13 percent of seniors aged 60-70 and 11-50 percent of seniors aged 80 and up suffer from muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia.

Some seniors make the mistake of assuming muscle loss is normal. Not only is it not the norm, but it also can seriously hinder a senior’s quality of life and leave them susceptible to all kinds of injuries.

Lower body strength is especially important for older adults who want to maintain their independence as they age.

Read on to learn more about the importance of lower body strength for seniors, what they can do to improve their strength, and how they can maintain the strength that they currently have.

Why Lower Body Strength Matters

Strengthening the muscles in the lower body helps improve bone strength and density in older adults. This is especially important for older women, who are more prone to a loss of bone density after menopause.

Strengthening the lower body also helps improve balance and stamina. This, in turn, decreases the risk of experiencing hip and knee injuries. It also decreases the risk of falling, which is the leading cause of fatal injury among senior citizens.

A strong lower body also makes it easier for seniors to live independently and perform daily functions like walking, standing up from a chair or bed, and climbing the stairs.

What Seniors Can Do to Build and Maintain Lower Body Strength

As you can see, lower body strength matters a great deal for senior citizens who want to enjoy a high quality of life. Listed below are three of the best exercises for seniors who need to strengthen their lower body:

Sit to Stand

One goal all seniors can work toward is being able to stand up from a chair or bed without assistance. In fact, this skill is correlated with a longer lifespan!

To be able to do this, seniors need to have strong quadriceps (front of the thigh) muscles. To strengthen their quads and work toward standing up unassisted, seniors can simply practice sitting in a chair and standing back up.

At first, they’ll probably need to use the armrests or hold onto someone else for support. With practice, though, they’ll be able to work up to sitting and standing completely on their own!

Stationary Lunges

A stationary lunge is a more advanced exercise that helps strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, and calves in addition to the quadriceps.

To do a stationary lunge, stand with the legs together. Then, take a large step back with the left leg and stand with the left heel lifted. Stand up straight with the hands on the hips.

Slowly bend the legs and lower the body down toward the floor until the knees form 90-degree angles — don’t let the left knee hit the floor. Slowly rise back up, then repeat for eight repetitions before switching sides.

Swiss Ball Squats

This is another good quadriceps strengthener; it also targets the glutes and hips.To do this exercise, stand up straight with a swiss ball between your shoulders and a wall. Lean back against the ball and slowly bend the knees to lower into a squat. Once the legs have formed a 90-degree angle, press into the ground with the feet and rise back up. Repeat for eight repetitions.

Tools for Seniors Who Lack Lower Body Strength

For seniors who are currently recovering from an injury or suffer from a severe lack of lower body strength, there are a number of tools that can help them get around while they heal, including the following:

While the goal is to eventually move away from these tools, it’s great to have them on hand during the recovery process or for seniors who are just getting started with a strength routine.

Ways to Stay Safe as You Age

Written by Becky Wilcox

Most of us don’t want to think about getting older — especially the ways in which we might get frailer. We want to think of ourselves as strong and independent forever. But the reality is that we will get weaker as we age. Our bones will become more brittle, we will lose muscle mass, and we might even lose cognitive function. We’ll be a little more wobbly and a lot more prone to injury.

Rather than ignoring that reality and setting ourselves up for serious injury, we should be making plans to make our homes as safe as they can be so that we can live independently for as long as possible. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you stay safe as you age:

Invest in Mobility Aides

A simple fall can lead to a major injury when you are older and your bones are weaker. You could break a bone just slipping off the last stair or you could even break a hip if you fall. If you have stairs in your home, you should invest in a residential elevator to be on the safe side. It will also help you if you have something heavy to carry up or down the stairs. You should definitely install mobility aides in the bathroom, where you are most likely to fall. Put a handrail in the tub or shower, and put one next to the toilet. If your joints are feeling creaky, you might even consider adding a toilet seat or a shower seat (or both). Don’t let your pride get in the way of your safety!

Address Slippery Surfaces

Loss of mobility isn’t the only reason you might have a fall. Slippery surfaces can lead to a hard landing even when you otherwise feel steady on your feet. Take care of these surfaces both inside and outside your home to reduce your chance of a slip and fall.

Replace slippery stone paths outside, or rough them up with some sand or salt. Put down friction strips on outside stone or wood stairs as these can get slippery when wet. Put mats inside and outside your doorways to catch water. Use runners and rugs throughout your home on other slippery stretches of flooring. Put friction strips inside your tub and shower.

Add Bumpers to Furniture Corners

Not only will your bones weaken as you get older, but your skin will also be a lot more delicate. It may seem like it hardly takes any pressure at all for your skin to bruise or bleed. If you knock into the corner of a piece of furniture, you are likely to get a serious injury.

Add bumpers to all sharp corners, including on tables, consoles, window ledges, and fireplaces. Also, take time to have your furniture re-arranged so you have more open pathways to move around your home.

Install a Home Security System

Some threats will come from outside your home. You may have taken care of every risk for a fall or injury in your home, but you can’t control whether someone else will try to break in and take your things or hurt you. However, you can install a home security system so that you get help as quickly as possible if someone does enter.

In many cases, would-be robbers will be deterred if they see that you have a security system installed. They don’t want the trouble of the alarm sounding. They would much rather go to a house with no alarm and take what they want undetected. Even if they break in, they are more likely to run off if they hear an alarm.

Getting older is inevitable. You can’t prevent it, but you can plan for it. Besides investing in your retirement and getting the right health care, you can ensure that you have a safe and happy retirement by making your home as safe as possible. Following these tips will help you reduce your risk of injury or harm from others. Nothing will reduce your risk to zero, but these smart strategies will certainly lower your number of visits to the emergency room and will add many years to life.

Coping With Sleep Disorders Among Seniors

Written by Amy Highland

Aging is often associated with increased instances of memory loss, slowed reflexes, and depression, but one of the most prevalent issues for seniors is insomnia. Seniors need seven to nine hours of sleep just like other adults, but many find themselves up several times during the night or waking too early. You may face some unique sleep challenges because of the aging human body. However, once aware of these issues, you can work to implement habits that will improve your chances of getting a good night’s rest.

Age and Sleep

Circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur on a regular 24-hour cycle, control the sleep-wake cycle. Circadian rhythms are heavily influenced by light expo       sure but can also be adjusted through behavior. Special receptors in the eyes called ganglion absorb the blue light that helps regulate circadian rhythms. Over time, changes in the eye such as narrowing pupils and yellowing of the lens can alter the sleep-wake cycle.

Seniors often experience circadian rhythm disruptions due to changes in the eyes. A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology explored the decrease in photo receptivity in the aging eye. Researchers noted that a 10-year-old child’s eye will absorb 10 times the amount of light as that of a 95-year-old. It was found that a decrease in pupil area and changes in light absorption resulted in a progressive loss of the eye’s ability to absorb the light necessary to regulate circadian rhythms. Another study found that patients who’d undergone cataract surgery experienced a better sleep-wake cycle due to the lightening of the eye lens, which allowed more light to regulate their rhythms.

But, but all sleep disorders in seniors do not stem from circadian rhythm problems. Seniors are also at higher risk for disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and rapid eye movement (REM) behavior disorder. Because of growing medical needs, many seniors may be taking medications that interfere with the sleep cycle including antidepressants, anticholinergics, and blood pressure medications.

The Road to Better Sleep

Though seniors face many challenges to getting a good night’s rest, a few behavior changes along with a proper diagnosis of any underlying problems can increase sleep quality. You can also help yourself rest better by:

  • Nighttime Comfort: Seniors often have body aches and pains that get in the way of good sleep. Be sure your mattress offers enough support and is appropriate for your preferred sleep position and weight. This simple change can often reduce nighttime pain.
  • Increasing Natural Light Exposure: Spending more time in natural light can help increase the among of blue light absorbed. It’s this blue light that regulates the circadian rhythms.
  • Using Bright Light Therapy: For some seniors, it can be difficult to get natural light exposure due to mobility issues or weather. Bright light therapy uses a special bulb the gives off light similar to sunlight. Exposure in the morning helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Exercising Regularly: Regular exercise helps to tire out the muscles. It’s also a good opportunity to get outside and increase your natural light exposure.
  • Avoiding Daytime Naps: Excessive daytime tiredness in seniors often results in several daytime naps. While a short nap of 30 to 45 minutes can counteract the effects of sleep deprivation, much longer than that and you could be disrupting your sleep-wake cycle.

Changing habits can take time, but with consistency and effort, you can give yourself a better chance to get the rest you need for improved physical, mental, and emotional health.