Some mobility loss is inevitable with aging. While this is generally known and accepted, the specific causes and process of this phenomena are becoming better understood to science. There are two main precursors to mobility loss in aging adults: pain and obesity. Left unchecked, these two factors can lead to advanced decline in the musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory systems.
For aging adults, a natural decline in hormones and overall strength can lead to a natural reduction in movement and exercise. When movement is reduced, particularly in the lower body, key muscle groups can weaken. This muscle weakness results in a further slowing and overall reduction of movement, which leads to further weakness. This process also affects overall flexibility. A simple test of hand grip strength in people over the age of 70 can be a good predictor of future mobility loss.
It is important for people to keep moving as they get older to counteract natural muscular decline. Exercise and active social involvement are enormously important in maintaining the growth, strength and flexion of various muscle groups. All muscle groups are interdependent. If muscles in the lower back weaken, the pain and stiffness can cause decline in all of the other groups. Senior people who enjoy active lives from middle adulthood into their mature years can maintain these systems, staving off the pain and decline that leads to the worst mobility problems.
Obesity is another factor that leads to immobility. It too can be brought on by weakness and inactivity. Heavier people simply carry a larger mechanical load, leading to greater wear on the joints and resulting pain. Exercise and activity are similarly helpful in this way. Healthy diet is equally important, as obesity makes future mobility problems 2 times more likely for aging adults. Obesity occurring alongside other early strength deficiencies makes it 6 times more likely.
Consequently, maintenance of healthy weight, strength, and flexibility are three key factors in mediating pain and mobility loss. This will keep the body strong and make the risk of injury through fall much lower. Falls occur due to weakness, but they are also the result of hearing and sight loss. When older adults have trouble seeing and hearing clearly, the attention can become confused, leading to more accidents and resulting injury. These can occur outside, on the road and in the home. Rise and recline chairs from the UK are an example of home furnishings built to help older adults maintain movement while sitting and standing. Because of common weakening of lower body muscles, these furnishings lift at the base in order to help the sitter come to a standing position. Methods like to help keep older people moving, less bound to chairs and beds.
When pain and mobility are properly kept in check, older adults can enjoy longer, stronger lives. The stronger they are entering their 70’s and 80’s, the less likely they will be to injure themselves through fall or sedentary decline. Older adulthood doesn’t have to a time of stillness and pain. By maintaining active lifestyle and healthy habits throughout middle adulthood, old age can maintain these healthy patterns.