Mobility devices used frequently by older adults


May 20, 2015

Topic: fragility fractures

More seniors are using mobility devices and becoming less active.

Seniors are beginning to use more mobility devices than ever before, causing them to become less active. While people may have begun using a mobility device such as a cane for a fragility fracture, their fear of a second injury is keeping them from staying mobile. This lack of physical activity can only lead to more orthopaedic problems down the road. 

A common trend
Researchers from the University of Vermont found that almost 25 percent of people over 65 years old in the country use some form of mobility aid, and some may use more than one. That includes common devices such as canes and walkers, as well as scooters and wheelchairs. The results were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 

"The percentage of older adults using mobility devices has increased over the last three decades, and multiple device use is common in those who use any device," lead study author Nancy Gell, from the department of rehabilitation and movement science at the University of Vermont, noted.

"Almost 25% of people over 65 years old in the U.S. use some form of mobility aid."

The researchers found that compared to seniors who did not use mobility devices, 30 percent of those who did use aids were less active because of a fear of falling. Of those polled between 2011 and 2012, 9 percent admitted they used more than one device. This may give people options. For example, if a senior uses a cane inside, he or she may decide to use a walker on rougher land outside to help maintain balance and prevent injuries. 

However, these fears may be leading to a worsened quality of life. Years of research have proven how important it is for seniors to stay active, as it reduces the risk for several health conditions and orthopaedic problems. 

Staying active
The more physically active older adults are, the more mobile they are. Exercise as simple as a daily walk can improve a person's range of motion and joint function. While seniors may believe that mobility devices may prevent them from falling, physical activity does too. Exercising regularly can improve older adults' balance and posture. If people become less active over time, their bones will slowly deteriorate and weaken, increasing their risk of fragility fractures. The more people get up and move, which puts slight stress on their bones, the stronger they stay. Exercise keeps muscles strong too, preventing muscle mass from atrophying over time and boosting seniors' metabolism. 

There is a range of exercises proven to be beneficial to older adults. These include:

  • Strength training: This type of exercise can prevent bones from weakening and keep muscles strong. People can try lifting free weights or using resistance bands to increase their strength.
  • Flexibility and balance: Testing out activities that work on flexibility and balance can help improve people's range of motion and help prevent them from falling during daily activity. Activities such as yoga and tai chi can be beneficial for older adults. They also create peace of mind. 
  • Light aerobics: Easy aerobic activities can get the heart pumping and aid circulation and heart health. Seniors can try exercises such as swimming, walking, bicycling, dancing or sign up for a low-intensity aerobics class.  

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