For anyone wishing to keep living independently in their own home, the most important thing the person needs to do is, to remain as physically active as possible.
Regular exercise in whatever form you enjoy, be it walking, swimming, cycling, or anything else, should be completed regularly, at least three times a week. In addition, resistance and balance exercises are vital. Exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of falls.
Falls are the commonest cause of injury in older people presenting to emergency departments. Falls can result in severe injuries, including broken hips, which often are associated with poorer mobility, even once the person has fully recovered.
Thus, avoiding falls by maintaining one’s physical fitness is a vital step in maintaining your independence.
When completing aerobic exercise (aimed to increase your heart and breathing rates) several factors should be taken into account.
Firstly, if you aren’t used to completing the activity, start slow, and gradually increase. Secondly, you need to have the correct gear – comfortable, well-fitting shoes for walking, for example. Thirdly, if completing an activity outdoors you need to keep your eye on the weather. In summer, exercise early in the morning when the temperatures are at their coolest, while in winter aim to exercise in the middle of the day.
In regards to resistance and balance exercises, you should also build up over time. Options include participating in an exercise program through your local community health service or asking your GP to refer you to a local physio who is skilled in this area (possibly via the Enhanced Primary Care Program).
In addition, there is the “Safe exercise at home” guide which takes you through a graded exercise program aimed at improving balance and strength, which you can complete in the comfort of your home.
So stay physically fit so you can remain living at home.
Dr. Irene Wagner
Geriatrician (Aged Care Specialist)