Last month we looked at “The Senior Foot Shuffle”. We learned factors that cause impaired gait.
The first major cause was emotional trauma or a fear of falling. We also learned that underlying medical conditions can affect the way you walk. The most important finding was that shuffling your feet increases your chance of falling. This month we’re looking at ways to improve strength, balance and confidence so you can walk tall to avoid a fall.
A big cause of injury in the elderly is hip fractures. A lack of muscle strength and bone density means your mobility will be impaired. This means engaging in weight bearing exercise that builds muscle. Strong muscles protect your joints. Having strong joints means less injury. Strength training is a great way to build muscle and protect your joints from wear and tear.
When you increase your muscular strength, it’s important to improve your balance as well. This means once again challenging your balance in a controlled setting. I teach people how to go up the stairs and navigate uneven surroundings using specific props. This not only engages the body, but the mind as well. You’re teaching your brain to be prepared. This gives you the confidence to navigate the world around you.
Improved confidence occurs when I help someone improve their strength and balance. When your strength improves, you stand a little bit taller. When your balance is improved, you feel more secure. You feel better about your situation. That’s the most important thing to remember. You can do something to help yourself feel better.
Improving your gait requires taking an active approach. The good news is that you can help yourself! If you want to improve your strength, balance and confidence you’ve got to take the first step.
I read an interesting story about a 103 Year old Australian Dancer.
Eileen Kramer is a great story of pursuing a dream and living your passion. I can’t stress this enough to those of you who think age is a limitation.
My experience working with older clients has provided me with a unique perspective. Vital, energetic and full of passion this population is. Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they don’t have dreams. You can decide to hike mount Kilimanjaro like the gentleman I featured in the picture above. He was only 90 when he did it!
I think when you stop dreaming and stop pursuing, that’s when you start to age. There’s nothing left to accomplish so you might as well sit around and get old. Right? Absolutely wrong! It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you’re in, you have the ability to try something new.
Mary is a client and she’s 75. She started learning to play the Ukulele this year. “I always wanted to learn.” Is there something you’ve always wanted to try? I encourage you to break the age barrier and do it! Our society has forged the wrong idea about what aging looks like. I makes me angry because people believe it.
Take a note from Eileen and keep at what you love.
Pursue what makes you happy.
Happiness has no age limit.
The New Superheroes of Brain Health?
Who knew being over 80 could be so great? The SuperAging study at Northwestern University in Chicago is exploring how to retain memory as we get older. The attempt to find new drugs in the fight against Alzheimers disease has come up short. One study attempts to look at the brain’s of those over 80 who can retain memory function. What qualities do these individuals posses?
Some of the answers lay deep in the brain. This study was conducted on 1,000 people. A memory test was completed in order to asses these individuals. A very select few pass this test. To read further information on this article I’ll attach the link at the end of my post. A surprising finding was that genetics may not play a part of developing neurologcial disease. A gentleman referenced in this article had a father who died of Alzheimers at 50 years old. He’s 87 years old and credits staying physically, mentally and socially active. He tends to emphasizes social networking as helping to “keep your wits about you.” Which I tend to agree with. Social connection is highly important and I believe very connected to brain function as we age.
Perhaps we must look deeper in to the brain. There we may find the answers we’re looking for. Our brain’s tend to shrink as we age.
“Brain scans showed that a superager’s cortex — an outer brain layer critical for memory and other key functions — is much thicker than normal for their age. It looks more like the cortex of healthy 50- and 60-year-olds. But Rogalski’s team found another possible explanation: A superager’s cortex doesn’t shrink as fast. Over 18 months, average 80-somethings experienced more than twice the rate of loss.
Another clue: Deeper in the brain, that attention region is larger in superagers, too. And inside, autopsies showed that brain region was packed with unusual large, spindly neurons — a special and little understood type called von Economo neurons thought to play a role in social processing and awareness.”
Here’s the difference with “SuperAgers”: The cortex that lay outside the brain is responsible for memory and is noticed to be thicker. As well, their cortex has a less of a tendency to shrink. Autopsies conducted demonstrated that their brains were packed with large, spindly neurons responsible for “social processing and awareness.” What does this mean? Social interaction could be a large factor in maintaing these neurons as we age. Could it be that those with active social tendencies have a better chance of avoiding neurological impairment? Especially if this study demonstrates genetics may not play a role in this disease.
Something to keep in mind!
Here’s the link I referenced in my article:
Parkinsons Disease and Exercise:
Punching it Out
“The big thing about parkinsons is that you need to exercise”.
I across this article in a local newspaper. This gentleman has Parkinsons Disease. I thought I’d share the story with you because it’s always what I try to encourage.
“The big thing about parkinsons is that you need to exercise”.
I thought this was a great story and inspirational for those who are combating this disease. I work with clients such as this gentleman. It is important to find resources to help manage the symptoms. I believe when you stay active, it definitely makes a positive difference. Take the time to read the article. It’s a positive spin on an otherwise destructive disease.
Thanks for reading!
Better Late Than Never
“Can exercise really benefit me at my age?”
Beth has met with my dad for the past eight years, three times a week. Not only is she a dedicated client, she’s also the familiar face that greets our morning group. At 85, she’s a hard working woman with a strong spirit. Beth didn’t have any experience in a gym before she joined us in 2008. She uses a walker to get around, but aside from that manages to exercise over an hour. It’s impressive because she can walk half an hour on the treadmill. Taking the odd break, she’s always determined to finish.
My dad takes her through a strength training program, carefully walking with her from one station to the next. “Ten more” I hear him say, “Great job sweetie.” Beth is always smiling and has such a sharp sense of humour. If I put that extra bit of weight on the machine, she always smiles at me coyly and says, “Ten more right? I thought you’d say that.” She’s strong and stubborn.
Priorities are certainly different as you age. Maintaining mobility and independence is often a goal with those we work with. If you’re like many of these individuals, you may not have any experience in the gym. You also may have many health issues.
The good news is you’re not alone. The majority of people we work with are in the same boat. Exercise can help if prescribed properly. A quality exercise program will improve your quality of life outside of the gym.
So my answer to the above question is this:
Yes! It’s never too late to start.
Published May 5th 2016
Scugog Standard Newspaper
I remember it vividly. It was Christmas Day…
A day for celebrating and sharing time with family. We arrived at the Nursing Home. I was anxious to see her. In a physical sense, she was that same beautiful person I remember. It broke my heart to show pictures of people she’s supposed to know. “Who are they?” She’d ask me.
We used to share life stories in her small apartment in Downtown Toronto. Unfortunately things started to change. While staying down there, she had forgotten to turn the stove off. Let’s face it, I’m sure we’ve all done that. This was different. There were other little things that were going on and that’s usually how it starts.
At the tender age of 75, she taught herself how to play the violin. “I can’t talk now! I’m practicing.” She’d often say when we called. Granny could play the Piano like a pro. Once again, practiced ferociously for hours everyday. My mom regails stories to me of a woman who never sat down. Granny rode her bike everywhere. She helped teach my Uncles to play Piano as well. Raising seven kids, it’s a wonder she had the time.
When I’d stop by to visit and asked her to play for me. By this time it was her mid 80’s. She wouldn’t play anymore. In fact, she’d look for reasons why she shouldn’t. “I may miss a note. I haven’t practiced in a while.” I didn’t really mind. “That’s okay Granny. I love hearing you play.” Sometimes I would coax her in to playing. I knew if I had to coax her, something was wrong.
The decision was made to sell her car, piano and her entire apartment. Everything she once knew was gone. Slowly her mind became the same. Everything that made her independent was now slowly being removed. I wish deep down inside that it hadn’t happened. I wanted her to keep playing. I wanted her to keep trying. Slowly but surely, the woman I’d come to know was slipping away.
There’s a hard fact to accept with someone suffering from Dementia or Alzheimers. All you have is the moment. Your loved one may recognize you briefly but in that same moment wonder who you are. A lifetime is literally wiped away. “And who are you?” She’d ask me. “I’m your granddaughter.” I’d reply with a smile. I knew as soon as we parted, she’d forget who I was or even that we were there.
The one image that sticks out in my mind on that day was a woman. She was sitting in a wheelchair. I sat and watched her as she cursed at someone who wasn’t there. Slamming and banging her hands on the tray. I looked around me and saw people who once had a childhood and memories. These people were young and I could only imagine the lives they lead.
From then on I promised myself, if there was something I could do to help someone in that situation I would. If I could use my power to help somone maintain their quality of life in a healthy way, I would. I work with many seniors who suffer these same ailments. I do my best to help them stay active mentally and physcially.
Any research I’ve done on Alzheimers and Dementia states a few key facts. The mind and body need to move. Socialization is such an integral part of keeping the mind active. Feeling a connection to others is so important. I came across this article that further elaborates.
Being a part of a group and having that sense of purpose and belonging is imperative. When that is taken away, I noticed a sharp decline in my Granny. Physical exercise is at the top of my list of importance. The mind and body are connected at all times. Your brain is a muscle that needs to be used. It keeps the connections strong and can learn an infinite number of patterns.
The sad part is that when people are diagnosed with these issues, we are inclined to believe there’s nothing we can do. The worst thing you can do is nothing. The sooner you can get someone active after being diagnosed, the better. Social connection and physical exercise adds to a persons’ sense of self worth and self esteem.
Sadly my Granny passed away at the age of 86. A few days after my 30th Birthday. I’ll pass on the advice she gave to me,
“Live for the day, because it’s all you have.”
If I can help someone do that, I will.
Thank you Granny.
“The doctors were astounded. Harry’s cancer hasn’t come back. They were amazed at how well he’s doing.”
Carol couldn’t hide her smile when she told me the good news. “He was told that he’d have 6-8 months to live. That was two years ago.” Back in January his Doctors couldn’t believe the progress he made from September of 2016. Not only has his cancer not returned his functionally and mobility has improved remarkably.
Harry was diagnosed with Glioblastoma. He has one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer. Family and friends have noticed far less dependence on a cane or walker. To balance on one foot was impossible four months ago. “I made him stand on one foot for the doctors. He didn’t falter.” Carol beamed. The doctors were surprised to say the least.
Carol may credit us with Harry’s improvement, but as my mom said, “ He wants to improve. That’s the difference. He wants to get better.” Not only can he move around more confidently, getting in and out of a chair is effortless. The little things that once were big mountains to climb are slowly being conquered. “He’s getting so strong! I have to come up with new challenges.” My mom said.
If the past has proven anything it’s that Harry and Carol can face life’s greatest challenge and come out on top. “He’s always positive.” Carol tells me, “He always has a great sense of humour. He never complains.” I can see from the look on her face that not only is she proud of her husband but more than anything she tells me, “I’m just glad we can do it together.”
“I read your article about your work with a woman who had brain cancer and felt that this might assist Harry to make life easier for him.”
We first met Carol and Harry in July. Cancer treatments left his balance a little shaky so he relied on a cane and walker to get around. Carol was eager to help her husband, “He had a brain tumour which was removed in June 2015. Further testing showed he had glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer.” The goal was clear. Help Harry gain his independence to enjoy the little things.
“He was in excellent health and living an active life until he had a seizure at the end of February 2015.” At seventy nine years of age, Harry and Carol have a good attitude. Carol was a competitive swimmer and taught exercise classes for thirty years. Having to manage health issues on top of taking care of Harry, “I regretfully let myself go.” She is naturally strong and has done very well. “Exercise with weights never appealed to me before and I have been pleasantly surprised how much I am enjoying it, how much energy I have and how much better I am feeling.”
Harry walked in to our gym the other day without his cane, “You look so confident walking in here today. It’s a noticeable difference!” My mom beamed.
“There is obvious improvement. He can walk more without any cane or walker.” Carol told me recently.
When I asked about featuring them, “I’d rather this article be about Harry.” Carol told me. “He has such a good attitude. He doesn’t get angry or sad about it.” Watching Harry exercising she turned to me with a warm smile,
“I’m just glad he and I can to do this together.”