We are in Houston this weekend visiting Susan’s Mom and sister. We are staying with Susan’s Mom. She lives in a beautiful senior independent living facility. It is quite interesting and a wake-up call to be around so many folks who are 15-25 years older than I. Susan and I discussed this at breakfast and I thought I would write about it.
Many of the residents are able to walk without assistance. This includes Susan’s Mom, who is only six weeks past her second knee replacement surgery. However, there are a number of residents who use a cane or walker. I began wondering how they arrived at a need for a walking aid. More important, I want to know what I can do personally to increase the chance that I will be able to walk around without using a walking aid of any kind.
I have no expertise in this area but it seems that there are two primary factors that lead to walking instability: leg and core strength and balance. I also speculated that not becoming “top heavy” is also important. If you are carrying to much weight above the waist, it would be much easier to topple over.
We know that our bones become more brittle as we age. For this reason, falls are more dangerous. A fall that would bruise us at 40 or 50 could break our hip at 80. No one wants that so I can see that if a senior citizen takes a fall due to an instability problem, his or her doctor may insist that the patient using a cane or walker in the future. The doctor is of course concerned about the patient having another fall, leading to more injury. If that were to happen, the doctor would also be concerned about his or her own liability, for not recommending a walking aid.
Is there another way, I wondered to Susan? Is it inevitable that as we age we all will become unstable in walking?
A preferred alternative path to me would be a program of continuous strength and balance training that would maintain our walking stability at all ages. Has such a program been defined? Or does the health care community intervene only when a problem occurs?
Susan and I went to the beautiful fitness center this morning in this senior living community. When we arrived at 8:00 AM, the lights were off and it was empty. When we left an hour later, no one else had appeared. There is a large swimming pool outside, in a lovely setting. It also was empty. This seemed strange to me. Why aren’t these seniors working out? Don’t they realize how fortunate they are to be mobile now? Why not work hard to maintain that with all of the free time that they have? What am I missing?
I have started training again with my son. (Susan and I train with him together when we can.) I believe he is doing things with us to help with the exact stability issues I am concerned about. We do lots of core strength work combined with movement that requires balance. Yoga also helps.
After being around the folks in this senior community, I realize that I need to do more. I am energized by this visit to do just that. I have looked into my health future this weekend and it concerns me. The burden is on me to do something about it. The time is now.