Ten Ways Seniors Can Improve Mobility and Maintain Their Independence

Written by Nurse Susan

Many seniors assume that limited mobility is an unavoidable part of the aging process. This definitely doesn’t have to be the case. By focusing on improving and maintaining their mobility, seniors can age in a healthy way, stay independent longer, and avoid falls and injuries that may negatively impact their quality of life.

Listed below are ten ways that seniors can improve their mobility to maintain strength and independence.

  1. Improve Balance

Focusing on improving balance is essential for seniors who want to avoid falls. Forms of exercise like yoga, tai chi, and pilates are great for improving balance. But, simply practicing standing on one foot (while holding onto chair or countertop) is also beneficial.

  1. Resistance Train

Resistance training strengthens the muscles and bones to improve balance and overall functionality. For seniors who are new to resistance training, bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups are a good starting point. Those who are more experienced can add resistance bands or weights.

  1. Utilize Mobility Aids

For those who currently struggle with walking, reaching, or other daily functions, it’s important to utilize mobility aids rather than simply avoid doing tasks that are challenging. Reach-extenders, canes, and walkers can help you stay active and avoid letting your limitations get in your way.

  1. Adjust Your Living Space

Making adjustments to your home can also improve your mobility and help you maintain your independence. Some good adjustments to start with include:

  • Adding ramps to the entrance of your home
  • Installing rails and grab bars
  • Getting rid of loose rugs and objects that you could trip over
  • Rearranging cabinets and closets to make items more accessible
  1. Work on Your Dexterity

If you improve your dexterity and grip strength, you’ll have an easier time handling tasks like opening doors and jars and carrying groceries. If you have a stronger grip, you’ll also have an easier time holding weights while you resistance train.

There are numerous ways to improve your dexterity and grip strength from the comfort of your own home:

  • Squeeze a stress ball or therapy putty
  • Do wrist curls with light dumbbells
  • Do hand and finger stretches
  • Practice picking up small objects like pennies or paper clips and moving them from one pile to another
  1. Tackle Household Projects on Your Own

There may be some household projects that you need help with — major projects like shingling your roof or mowing the lawn should probably be handled by professions! But, are there projects you’re outsourcing even though you could handle them on your own.

One way to improve your mobility is to challenge yourself to take on more projects. Don’t get carried away and do more than you can manage, but consider tackling tasks like changing light bulbs, vacuuming, and basic cleaning by yourself.

  1. Buy New Shoes

Sometimes, the solution to your mobility problems is simple. Changing your shoes could make a big difference in your ability to walk around and take care of other tasks. Look for shoes with plenty of tread to help you avoid slipping and falling. Your shoes should also fit comfortably and have plenty of support so that you can walk for extended periods of time without hurting your feet. Make sure you’re changing your shoes regularly, too, to avoid wearing them out.

  1. Change Your Diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help increase your energy and, by proxy, your mobility. Increasing your consumption of anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, nuts, and leafy green vegetables can also help reduce inflammation and joint pain that may be limiting your ability to move around freely.

  1. Get Your Eyes Checked

Conserving your vision with regular checkups will also help you maintain your independence. Not only will you be able to drive yourself to appointments, but you’ll also be able to spot potential tripping hazards more easily.

  1. Know Your Limits

Finally, while it’s important to challenge yourself, it’s also important for you to understand your limits. Avoid taking on risky activities that could end up making your mobility worse. If you’re not sure about a specific activity, talk to your doctor before participating.

Retirement Blues

According to life’s great book of rules, retirement should be the satisfying, well-deserved culmination of a life spent in preparation for just this moment. Away from the stresses of the working world, able to pursue interests that are actually interesting, free to spend time as you want – darn close to the definition of the perfect scenario. How could anyone find they are anything but happy to be retired?

Be careful what you wish for…

What if you discover you are not entirely ready to retire? What if you are unprepared to fill your free hours with worthwhile, meaningful and fun things? Perhaps worst of all what if you become bored? The thought of twenty or thirty more years spent pursuing the same dismal course can bring on those retirement blues big time.

I enjoy being retired. But the beginning of my second act was anything but enjoyable. Having lost my job at the tender age of 53 no one was more surprised than me to find I was no longer hirable. Apparently 30 years of experience was no longer valued in the fast moving technology start-up rocket-to-the-moon companies I had been happily engaged with to this point. Upon finding myself “on the streets” I struggled for more than a year to find some fit, enduring multiple pulse-quickening sweaty-pit-inducing interviews but found no takers.

At first I was confused. To this point I had moved seamlessly from company to company with very little time between jobs. Someone always wanted me on their team. I thought I still had “it” but apparently that was not the case. What had changed so drastically?

I questioned my own worth. Was it something about me? Had I lost my mojo, was I no longer good enough? In the end I fear I was just too old to fit the bill with the twenty-something CEOs driving those enterprises onward. My original plans had been to work to close to age 62. Forced retirement could put a major crimp in the financial position I had hoped to be in before my exit. Not the best way to start a retirement life.

What if you find as you enter your “golden years” you are not physically or mentally up to launching a new life chapter? Many retirement age folks have worked long and hard along the way. Some may just be worn out. Now that you finally have the time to do all you dream of you just don’t have the energy. Talk about grounds for a serious case of the retirement blues.

What if you find yourself living your retirement dream solo? Probably not exactly the dream you envisioned but sometimes reality just the same. All those adventures you planned with your significant other, those spur-of-the-moment escapes, those travels to previously unvisited destinations, those peaceful times spent side-by-side reading or just enjoying being together – without someone to share the moment a piece of the magic is missing.

What if retirement is just not what you expected? You may be free to do what you want but do you know what that might be? Will an empty calendar be a good thing or not? You may have hobbies but are they enough to entertain you for ten or twenty or more years?

Before you let those retirement blues get the best of you take a moment to remember what you have dealt with and survived to arrive at this stage of your life. Each of us has faced challenges. If you have raised a family you have weathered storms the likes of which only fellow parents can imagine. You have withstood everything from teething to tantrums, sleepless nights to dance recital jitters, teen angst to bewildered young adults struggling to grow up, and on and on. You have to be pretty tough to get through all this with all your marbles (or at least most of them).

Many have weathered careers that were a far cry from what we imagined when we began. Not all bosses are a joy to work with. Not all deadlines are reasonable. Not all who should be promoted are in fact promoted. Sticking with it is no easy chore and yet you prevailed.

Retirees are survivors. Don’t sell yourself short. Call upon those super hero strengths you developed along the way.

I try not to worry about things out of my control. Too often I imagine all the bad outcomes that could be and then when the moment arrives it turns out not nearly as awful as I imagined. Unfortunately I cannot take back those worrisome moments spent in anticipation of something that ultimately never was. I am learning it is better to go with the flow rather than try to prepare for every possibility.

Coping with the blues is part of the human experience. Retirement blues is just another track on the same record. We have done it before and with a little luck and determination we should be able to do it again.

Happy Retirement!


Five Ways to Encourage Seniors to Stay Social

Written by Nurse Susan

Regular social interaction is essential for seniors, especially those who are living alone and face an increased risk of developing depression.

However, even if they know about the benefits that come with socializing, many seniors feel unmotivated to seek out social engagements, or they feel that they have physical limitations that are holding them back. They may also simply not know how to go about finding opportunities socialize with their peers.

This is where you come in. If you’re worried that a parent or loved one is spending too much time alone, it’s important for you to take some initiative and help them combat social isolation. If you’re feeling a bit lost, start with these five tips:

  1. Help Them Find Transportation

Whether they no longer own a car or suffer from a medical condition that leaves them unable to drive, many seniors end up isolated because they lack transportation.

If this is an issue for the senior in your life, coordinate with other family and friends to arrange regular rides for them.

You might also want to check with your local senior center to see if they offer any kind of shuttle to help seniors run errands or get to community events. Some cities even give seniors free or discounted bus passes.

  1. Provide Them With Adaptive Technologies

Some seniors are also hesitant to go out and socialize because they worry about mobility limitations or hearing deficits.

Making sure your parent or loved one has the proper adaptive tools at their disposal may help them feel more confident going out and spending time with their peers.

Some tools that can make a big difference in the experience seniors have out in public include:

  • Hearing aids
  • Telecoils for busy places like movie theaters and churches
  • Walkers
  • Wheelchairs

Some seniors may be hesitant to use these devices, either because they’re embarrassed about needing extra help or because they think they’re too expensive. It may take a little coaxing at first, so remember to be patient as you talk up the benefits of adaptive technologies.

  1. Address Any Incontinence Issues Ahead of Time

Incontinence is a major issue for the majority of seniors. In fact, urinary incontinence affects more than half of non-institutionalized women over the age of 65 and more than one-fourth of non-institutionalized men.

If the senior in your life struggles with incontinence, they may feel less inclined to leave the house, even for short periods of time. To help assuage their fears, make sure you have incontinence supplies like portable toilets and wipes on hand before going out.

  1. Don’t Ambush Them

When it comes to encouraging seniors to get out and socialize more, it’s important to avoid ambushing them with surprise, last-minute outings. These events will most likely end up increasing their anxiety and may even anger them, especially if they feel like you’re not respecting their wishes.

If you have a particular event that you want to your parent or loved one to attend, be sure to let them know about it ahead of time and continue to remind them leading up the event.

It can also be helpful to contact the person planning the event and let them know about any accommodations your parent may need.

  1. Start Small

If it’s been a while since your parent or loved one has gone out and socialized, they may become overwhelmed very easily.

To make the event more enjoyable for them, be sure to plan it around their current schedule and avoid keeping them out for more than couple hours at a time.

Planning events earlier in the day can also be beneficial, especially for seniors who are starting to struggle with memory loss or dementia, as they often begin to feel confused in the evening (this is known as sundowning).

Don’t let the seniors in your life become isolated, especially if they’re struggling with an illness, the death of a spouse, or another major life change.

Keep these tips in mind as you encourage them to continue to get out and interact with other people, and remember to always be patient when encouraging your loved ones to break their routine or try something new.