What Is Mobility?
Mobility is the ability to move purposefully throughout your environment.
It’s essential to maintaining independence and well-being. Our mobility
is known to decline with age or diseases, such as osteoarthritis.
Loss of Mobility
Loss of mobility can mean a decrease in autonomy, a decline in every day
functioning, and an increased risk of depression, falls, and car crashes.
Increased Risk of Falls
More than 25% of adults over the age of 65 fall each year, but less than
50% tell their doctor. 1/5 of these falls result in serious injury, and
falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury. 95% of hip
fractures are caused by falling, usually from falling sideways. Falling
once doubles your chance of falling again.
Each year, 2.8 million older people are treated in emergency departments
for fall injuries. Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because
of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
Risk Factors for Falls
Several conditions put you at higher risk for falls. Some of them include
lower body weakness, a vitamin D deficiency, difficulty with balance or
walking, certain medications (sedatives, muscle relaxants, etc.), vision
problems, foot pain or poor footwear, home safety hazards (throw rugs,
stairs), and osteoporosis. Most falls are a combination of risk factors.
Some osteoporosis risk factors you cannot change include:
- Gender—women get osteoporosis more than men.
- Age—the older you are, the higher your risk.
- Body size—small, thin women are at greater risk.
- Ethnicity—White and Asian women are at the highest risk. Black and
Hispanic women have a lower risk.
- Family history—osteoporosis tends to run in families.
Maintaining Your Mobility
The more active you are, the less likely you are to develop a major mobility
disability. Physical activity builds strength and endurance and lowers
your risk of falls. Your goal each week should be to either have 150 minutes
of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity.
Start small and build your endurance. Walking is a good option, especially
if you don’t have access to a gym or exercise equipment. *Before
starting any exercise program, consult your doctor.
Some simple exercises to improve your balance:
- Stand on one leg at a time for 1 minute and slowly increase your time;
try to balance with your eyes closed or without holding on.
- Stand on your toes for a count of 10, then rock back on your heels for
a count of 10.
- With your hip, make a circle to the left, then right. Repeat 5 times. Don’t
move your feet or shoulders, just your hips!
Eliminate fall hazards at home by installing grab bars in the bathroom,
and adding a non-skid bathmat to your tub or shower. Install a handrail
on both sides of staircases, and make sure that stairwells are brightly
lit. Wear rubber-soled shoes, and remove throw rugs that are tripping
hazards. Use assistive devices as needed, such as canes, walkers, or walking sticks.
Have your vision checked and maintain a healthy weight. Overweight women
have nearly 4 times the risk of knee osteoarthritis, and for overweight
men the risk is 5 times greater.
Talk to Your Doctor
Evaluate your risk for falls with your physician. Ask if you should have
a cone mineral density test for osteoporosis, especially if you are over
65 (women) or 70 (men), or if you have a history of falls. Treatment for
osteoporosis includes a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, an
exercise plan, a healthy lifestyle, and possibly medications.