Growing old: you don’t have to take it lying down!
Growing old isn’t for the faint-hearted. Most people at some point will experience the loss of muscle mass, reduced mobility, and physical conditions which range from the annoying to serious issues which impact our health and lifestyle.
But we don’t have to take it lying down. With a dose of targeted exercise and expert guidance — and a spoonful of determination — many older people can regain a more active and independent life.
Janelle Heyse, Carinity State Manager – Community Services, has seen first-hand the benefits of tailored in-home exercise programs.
“The good news is that older people can re-build a base level of strength and balance that can slow down the ageing process,” Janelle says. “Regular, targeted and safe exercise does more than improve physical health. It improves mobility and restores confidence.”
As part of a client-focused organisation, Carinity carers work alongside nursing and allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists, to help seniors live the best life possible at home and in the community.
And little things can make a big difference, according to Janelle. “Regaining lost flexibility, mobility and stability makes everyday tasks like dressing, getting in and out of lounge chairs, brushing teeth and making a cup of tea so much easier. It also reduces the person’s dependence on others.”
Use it or lose it
Sam Brady is an Assistant Lifestyle Coordinator and Registered Nurse at Carinity Home Care Hervey Bay. She says that the key to introducing exercise programs is working with clients and understanding their needs.
“It is about getting to know the client, discussing their goals and the things they enjoy in life and trying to incorporate that. We want clients to understand the importance of mobilising as much as possible, because as soon as you stop exercising your mobility will decline.”
Phil Cairns, Carinity Lifestyle Coordinator in Townsville, also has hands-on experience as a carer. He knows the idea of exercise can be confronting to those living with painful conditions and they may become anxious about post-exercise pain management.
“I assure clients that the physio will not have them doing burpees, push-ups and box jumps, but will show them light stretches and movements that can activate some of their stabilising muscles to promote safe movement and mobility,” says Phil.
We all feel better about ourselves when we can do things — whether it’s getting the lid off that stubborn jam jar or walking comfortably around the shopping centre. Whatever our goal, the link between strength and confidence goes beyond mere physical prowess.
“Our carers see the flow-on mental health effects of being stronger — a new sense of vitality and wellbeing,” says Janelle. “People feel more confident because they can manage household tasks again and can get out and about in their community. They are more positive in their outlook and willing to try new activities.”
Active at Home
Carinity’s experience in delivering personalised support to home care clients was recognised recently when the organisation was chosen by the Public Health Network to implement Active at Home, a not-for-profit program developed in association with the Australian Government.
The 12-week program is designed by exercise physiologists to be easily embedded into existing home care services for independently mobile older people with low care needs. It will be delivered by Carinity carers who have completed training in the program.
A client’s progress is recorded via the Active at Home App, enabling Carinity to measure progress and report back to clients through assessment tools.
Results from the program trial were more than encouraging, according to Janelle.
“Not only did participants report measurable increases in physical functionality and independence, but there was a steady, considerable reduction in the use of other health services and the formation of new exercise habits.
“In other words, participants felt better and they demonstrably were better as a result of making exercise a regular part of their routine.”
The Active at Home program will roll-out to seniors in the Rockhampton, Wide Bay, Fraser Coast and Sunshine Coast regions shortly. Visit activeathome.org.au.
Sam and Phil’s tips for keeping healthy and active:
- Small everyday things make a big difference: Hang out the washing, walk to the end of the driveway to check the letter box, complete puzzles, play games or cook dinner.
- Keep moving every day: With regular steps your mind stays focused, your body keeps going and your quality of life improves every day.
- Challenge yourself: Big or small, find ways to push through barriers and achieve something new.
- Increase hydration: Most of us do not drink enough clear water. Recommendations are two to three litres per day. Tea and coffee don’t count!
- Eat your veggies: A wide variety of colourful fruit and vegetables increases the visual stimulation of your plate. It also provides a variety of essential vitamins and minerals associated with bone and muscle strength.
- Mix up your diet: Try adding vegetables to breakfast with an omelette, or add salad or roast vegetables to lunch.