Sitting on the sofa too much leads to weak muscles. Most people think that elders can’t build muscles, but this is not true! Strength and balance exercises help increase leg strength and improve balance. While we do lose muscle as we age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility.
Visiting Your Doctor
With longer life expectancies, the need for preventive care and frequent medical examinations has never been greater. Regular medical, dental and vision checkups are essential.
- If applicable, optometrists might recommend updating eyeglasses during annual examinations. Talk to your doctor about any balance and mobility concerns. Discuss any problems with dizziness, joint pain, weakness in legs, worsening gait or balance, etc. The doctor will evaluate the root cause(s) of the problem and recommend treatment.
- If you are unsteady, a cane or walker might be a good idea to increase stability. Selecting the right device and correct size is critical, as are instructions and training in proper use. A physical therapist can help select the right cane or walker for you and teach you how to use it correctly and safely.
- Have your doctor or pharmacist review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Drugs may cause side effects that can interfere with aging in place.
How to navigate the various healthcare professions and understand the role of each.
- Geriatricians are physicians (internist, family medicine practitioner) who are specifically trained in the special needs of elders (memory loss/dementia, urinary problems, fall prevention, multiple medications, etc.). To find a geriatrician, call your state’s medical society.
- Occupational and physical therapists help evaluate an individual’s function in the home and work with the elder’s primary care doctor to design comprehensive safety recommendations.
- Geriatric care managers (typically a nurse or social worker) work with families to help with caregiving. Facilitating communication among doctors, the elder and family, geriatric case managers help determine the types of services needed, help with medical management and provide updates about the senior’s health. Care managers are ideal for family caregivers providing long-distance care, particularly those living more than an hour away. Contact the Aging Life Care Association at aginglifecare.org to find a care manager in your area.
*A skilled construction or design professional can help make a home “aging friendly.” Visit nahb.org/CAPS to find someone who is a certified aging-in-place specialist.
Continuing advancements in technology allow more and more seniors to stay comfortable and secure at home, while providing peace of mind for family members. Home-monitoring technologies are becoming more affordable and user-friendly, including:
- Sensors Installing sensors throughout the home can detect a senior’s change in routine, abnormal movements and falls. Sensor mats under mattresses monitor sleep patterns, heart rate and breathing.
- Wearable health devices Health-centric technology worn as wristbands, biometric shirts, goggles and more measure everything from blood pressure to vision.
- Video monitoring Elders can check in with relatives and friends via monitoring cameras or video conferencing.
- Mobile apps Via smartphones and other mobile devices, apps can remind older adults to take their medication, or measure glucose or skin temperature on the spot, or adjust hearing volume.
- Telemedicine Roving robotic devices allow doctors to remotely complete real-time medical appointments with aging home dwellers. At a distance, clinicians can also track heart rhythm paths for older patients with heart disease or who are at risk for stroke or heart attack.
- Home automation Smart auto-set devices simplify daily tasks such as opening or securing windows and doors, turning off appliances, lowering countertops and shelves, and adjusting home temperature.
- Fall-detection devices PERS (personal emergency response system) and passive sensors assess whether a fall has taken place and alert others that an individual has fallen.
*Cnet (cnet.com) offers consumer product reviews of video technology products.
Where to go from here
View a comprehensive list of home hazards and solutions.