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Mobility – Key to Living Independently

Just exactly what is mobility? Most of us think of it as the ability to move within our surroundings without difficulty. Medical professionals talk about it in terms of its loss, with immobility being the lack of ability to take part in the activities of daily living because of a medical issue or disability.

Nearly 40 percent of people age 65 and older had at least one disability, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in December. Of those 15.7 million people, two-thirds of them say they had difficulty in walking or climbing. Difficulty doing errands, such as shopping or visiting a doctor’s office was the second-most cited difficulty. Decreased mobility can also limit access to community services. This means that preserving mobility, as well as coping with the consequences of its loss, is most important to maintaining the ability to live as independently as possible.

Mobility in the Home

Limitations in mobility can make it difficult to move about the home, go up and down stairs, prepare meals, keep house, do the laundry, and sometimes even bathe or shower and dress. Homes with multiple levels can add another degree of difficulty.

The good news is decreased mobility is not necessarily inevitable as we age. A program of regular physical activity can prevent many of the health problems that seem to come with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an adult 65 years of age or older, who is generally fit and has no limiting health conditions, needs 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, every week. While 2 hours and 30 minutes of aerobic activity sounds like a lot, it is only 20 minutes a day and, as long the aerobic activity is done for at least 10 minutes at a time, it can be spread out over the week in any way that’s convenient. Also necessary two or more times a week are muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups. In addition to improving mobility, muscle-strengthening activities also help maintain bone density, improve balance and coordination and reduce the risk of falling. Taken together all these activities help maintain independence in daily life.

A home exercise program has been designed by the CDC to maintain and improve strength and mobility. It is available on the Internet at www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/exercises/ at no charge. It even features online animations that show exactly how to perform the exercises. The only other equipment required is a sturdy chair and some inexpensive hand dumbbells. Staying mobile does not have to be expensive!

There are also community resources available to older adults to maintain strength and aerobic health. One example is the Peoria Park District’s “50 Rock” program, which includes fitness classes that work to improve strength and aerobic health. Personal training is also available. (See www.peoriaparks.org/50rock-fitness/ for more information on 50 Rock.) For those who prefer to exercise at home, sometimes working out with an “exercise buddy” provides encouragement and helps both individuals stay on track. Others may want to take advantage of organizations that offer in home care to exercise with the support and assistance of a home health aide or personal care assistant.

For those living with a mobility limitation of daily life activities, home care organizations can be brought in to provide assistance with the activities that are difficult or not possible – even temporarily - due to the mobility problem.

One last, important note: Before beginning any new exercise regimen, especially if you are not used to regular exercise, it is important to consult with your primary care physician.

Mobility in the Community

Mobility within the community – transportation - is an important requirement for daily life activities that take place outside the home. These include shopping, visiting friends, medical appointments, participating in religious activities and many more. Lack of access to transportation is also a risk factor for social isolation and a lowered quality of life.

Older drivers can extend the time they are able to drive safely by taking advantage of resources offered by AARP to help keep them independent, safe and confident while on the road. Descriptions of AARP classroom courses (including those available in the Peoria area), online courses and other driver resources are available at www.aarp.org/ws/EO/driver-safety-programs/.

For those who have physical or mental difficulties using regular auto transportation, assisted transportation services are available through the Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. Access is provided based on the greatest need to reach dialysis and chemotherapy; doctor appointments; grocery and personal shopping; adult day care; Social Security and Public Aid offices; employment; visits to health care facilities; socialization activities; and beauty and barber shops. More information is available at www.ciaoa.net.

Transportation to medical appointments, shopping and social activities is also provided by many home care agencies as a part of their service offering.

The resources cited within this article can help individuals maintain and manage mobility. Independence is compromised without mobility in the home and community, therefore maintaining mobility and managing its impact is very important for all ages and people.


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Peoria, IL 61614

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