Older person’s health

Keeping our older people safe and well:

With an ageing populating, it is now more important than ever to look after the health of the older people in our community. According to Sherrington et al, At least one-third of people aged 65 years and over fall once or more annually. The flow-on effects from a fall can unfortunately be fatal in some individuals. The good news? Physiotherapists are well-equipped to prevent and manage falls risks in our elderly population. Physiotherapy intervention has also been shown to help with numerous other age-related conditions, including reduced bone and muscle mass. 

When are you considered an “older person”?

The World Health Organisation believes that most developed world countries characterise old age starting at 60 years and above. At this age, accumulative damage to our cells start to have visible effects on our function and ability to perform daily tasks. These changes can be physical in nature but also include cognitive changes such as reduced memory.

Common conditions associated with ageing:

  • Poor balance.
  • Decreased muscle mass.
  • Reduced bone density, causing osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Poor vision and hearing.
  • Tendinopathies. 
  • Respiratory conditions i.e. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Poor cardiovascular health.
  • Urinary/faecal incontinence.
  • Increased incidence of poor mental health, i.e. depression, anxiety.
  • Diabetes.
  • Dementia.

How can Physiotherapy improve the qualify of life for our older people?

Physiotherapy is underpinned by one common theme: maintaining and improving our health through tailored movement. As people get older and more sedentary, many of these listed conditions will take a turn for the worse. Movement is essential for a healthy life and has a positive effect on all of our body systems. These body systems include:

  • Integumentary system (skin, hair and nails).
  • Skeletal system.
  • Muscular system.
  • Nervous system.
  • Endocrine system. 
  • Cardiovascular system.
  • Lymphatic system.
  • Respiratory system.
  • Digestive system.
  • Urinary system.
  • Reproductive system.

How important is balance in the consideration of older person’s health?

Altered balance is one of the main risk factors in falls amongst the elderly. Balance is comprised of three things and a reduction in any of these will adversely affect a person’s balance. The three components that make up balance are:

  • Vision.
  • Proprioception (sense of body positioning).
  • Vestibular system (inner ear).

Balance training, like all aspects of physical fitness, takes time, patience and perseverance. As Physiotherapists, we believe that a tailored  and goal-orientated exercise plan is most effective. In the case of balance training, this would involve an initial assessment to gauge a person’s baseline score through various tests.

These tests are all well-renowned for their accuracy and ability to detect change. The Clinical Exercise studio is great place to challenge and improve your balance too! Between the wobble-board, the Bosu ball and the reformer, we have plenty of ideas to keep you on your toes, quite literally! 

Hydrotherapy is pool-based exercise and a wonderful tool for keeping fit and active. We can write a personalised hydrotherapy program if this is something you are interested in.



Other considerations:

Low bone density is a common issue with the ageing populating, especially in post-menopausal women. Weight-bearing exercise (i.e. walking) and gentle strength training (i.e. Clinical Exercise or a tailored home-based program) can help to prevent a loss in bone mass.

We all know that exercise, in addition to improving our physical wellbeing, has a raft of mental/emotional benefits. These include the following:

  • Improved self-esteem.
  • Social inclusivity (if the exercise is in a group setting).
  • Enhanced body image.
  • Release of endorphins and the resulting improvement in mood.
  • Reduced stress.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about how we value older person’s health at PMPP, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Yours in health,
~ Ali

Older Person’s Advocacy Network: https://opan.org.au

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