Inactivity is one of the biggest barriers to healthy aging and is one of the key factors that potentiates the associated disease and morbidity that is seen in the elderly – the demographic that have the greatest proportion of inactivity. Inactivity and sedentary habits are such a large problem in aging populations because it potentiates the effects and increases the risk of developing a variety of other age-related or chronic diseases and disorders such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Furthermore, while many people focus on the physical effects of inactivity, it is also known to cognitively affecting individuals by increasing the risk of developing depression, dementia and low self-esteem. Conversely, having a regiment of regular physical activity is associated with better sleep quality, lower risk of hip fracture, increased bone density, reduced abdominal obesity as well as, increased self-esteem and quality of life.
At Richview Manor we know that physical exercise is vitally important for elderly individuals, both for mental and physical stability and reassurance. As such, we employ some of the best physiotherapists that run individualized regiments with our residents in our state of the art facility. In order to get a better understanding about the exercises, structure and success stories of physiotherapy, we did a little Q&A with one of our Physiotherapy Assistants (PTA), Roger Donville.
Q: How much physical activity should a person over the age of 65 really be doing?
A: Really it depends on each individual’s strengths and capabilities but the more the better within that person’s comfort level. Particularly, with the aging population we like to focus on strengthening and balancing since most age-related accidents are related to falls and slips. We often will set up programs depending on the person’s specific needs and capabilities.
Q: Based on personal experience, what benefits do you think residents are gaining from physiotherapy?
A: At the end of the day, physical activity is a means to, not only prolong life, but also as a means to stay independent and healthy in later life. We often see that after starting physiotherapy, residents are more physically able, less likely to fall and have a larger degree of movement and activity. More than this though, we see such a huge change in resident’s confidence and self-esteem; they are more willing to be active, they are less fearful of going outside and interacting with people and they are more happy and independent.
Q: What sort of regiments and exercise do you run with residents?
A: Walking is the best exercise you can do at this age, and so if the person is able to walk we will do it as much as possible. Likewise, we can do assistive range of motion exercises for those who have limited, but present, movements. For example, if the person has problems with moving their arm, they can move their arms as much as possible and then we assist them with moving their arm over the remainder of the possible movement range. In this way we can support individuals in using muscle groups that they would not usually use and allow them to become strengthened – ultimately this will allow them to use these range of motions without assistance.
Q: What challenges do you have in encouraging residents to be active and how can/do you and families encourage residents to be more active?
A: The biggest challenge is finding the right program for each person. Everyone has a ‘theme’ and they are all different in their personalities, experiences and mindsets so you always have to listen to the residents and figure out who they are. Only after you have done this can you start to respond to their concerns in the most personal and impactful way; some people respond very well to being reminded what the benefits of physiotherapy are while others may respond better to me leaving and coming back at a later time. Another large problem is dementia and depression as they often leave people feeling lethargic and anxious – very often individuals with these disorders vary immensely in their cooperativeness from day to day. The best thing I can do during these situations is to not take it personally – like everyone else I know these individuals have good and bad days, but that their bad days may be particularly burdened by these disorders. My message to the families would be to continuously outline the benefits of physiotherapy to your loved ones and to tell them your concerns about their health to perhaps make them feel more at ease about the process.
Q: What is your impression of Richview Manor from a physiotherapy perspective?
A: The building is top notch and is the best facility that I work at – they have large, open areas that are perfect for walks and other exercises and they have some of the best gym equipment, both in terms of variety and functionality. Apart from this, it is a very friendly environment where everyone respects each other and is friendly. It is really nice to work in a place where you do not feel isolated and where you can really maintain your self-respect. I would also like to say that it is amazing that there are tons of active and physical programs that are offered at Richview for all individuals (independent and assisted living), such as ‘walks at mill pond’ and ‘sit and be fit’, as it gets residents in an active state of mind and encourages them to maintain this in physiotherapy.
Q: Could you tell me about some of your success stories at Richview Manor?
A: There are quite a few residents at Richview who amaze me on a day-to-day basis. One of my biggest achievements was Ruth – when I first met Ruth she was in a wheelchair and she was very reluctant to get up and move around but now she no longer uses her wheelchair and she has a lot of fun going for walks and zipping from place to place. Another big win for me was our resident, Alan, who had problems with his left arm; after we did some assistive range of motion exercises he has been moving his arm by himself and really becoming self-sufficient with the exercises. Apart from this, many of our residents like Arcadio, Margaret and Irene always try their best and push themselves to do better. The real key is for residents to never give up and always work within their capabilities – a mantra that our residents uphold on a daily basis.