There are few more universal experiences as we age than the loss of at least some amount of mobility. This process can be frustrating to deal with, especially in the presence of other changes in our lives, such as retirement, kids moving away, and even concerns with the care of our own aging parents.
Juggling these many changes and responsibilities when you’re having trouble getting around can be an incredible burden, so it’s important to know what might cause these problems and know how to prevent and manage them to the greatest extent possible. Your techniques for dealing with mobility problems are a big part of your overall plan for adjusting to an aging body, so think about some of these factors.
If you’re already having trouble with mobility, there are a lot of things you can do to adapt. The struggle to get up from a chair or bed can be managed with a chair that stands you up. These chairs are sturdy, stable, and comfortable, and they help you move to and from a standing position with less pain and a lower risk of falling.
One of the most common reasons we begin to have trouble getting around in old age is arthritis. While certain forms of it, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are highly heritable (meaning they are largely unavoidable), others are also due to the abuse we have subjected our bodies to in our younger years. The demands of physical labor in vocations from farming to factories can result in excessive wear and tear on joints, ligaments, and tendons, contributing to arthritis and exacerbating its effects. And a youth filled with some fun playing basketball, tennis, football, and other fast-paced sports can also take a toll that only fully registers in old age.
Other conditions that limit mobility include stroke and osteoporosis. Strokes are incidents of either clots or hemorrhaging on the brain that damage cells, possibly including those that govern body movement. These episodes can sometimes be reversed with rapid treatment, but others leave behind lifelong changes that patients must adapt to. Make sure you understand the symptoms and signs of stroke so that the earliest possible treatment can take place. Osteoporosis, while more common in women, can be found in men as well, with the bones becoming brittle and porous with the loss of calcium caused by insufficient dietary intake of this key mineral.
The lesson here is to take care of your body. Those 16-hour days at work and Saturdays on the basketball court may be writing checks that 60-year-old you will have to cash. Find ways to limit the amount of strenuous physical activity you do and focus instead on lower-impact exercise that builds strength and flexibility. While you’re still on the job, follow good ergonomic movement rules and do what you can to move into less demanding roles as you age.
Also, keeping your weight at a healthy level will reduce the strain on your joints, saving your cartilage for your senior years. A healthy diet and exercise program can also reduce the chance of things like stroke, which can weaken your body and make it more difficult to stand, sit, and walk. Make sure your diet also includes calcium to help ward off osteoporosis. If you have a family history of rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, diabetes, and other problems that can interfere with your mobility, begin working with your doctor as soon as possible to discuss what you might be able to do to minimize their impact on you.
We have to get older, but we don’t have to feel older. It begins in our youth when we can make better choices about our activity and diet to optimize our chances for better health, and it continues as we work around whatever issues may develop.