Many seniors may overestimate or overstate their “independence” and “physical activity.” As they age their expectations for independence and physical activity may change. This willingness to be content with decreased mobility, strength and overall independence with activities of daily living can make it more difficult to get them to participate in therapy and other physical engagement opportunities that are proven to reduce injuries – especially from falls – and enjoy their lives even more.

Last month I referenced a fascinating article giving insights about misperceptions seniors have about their ability to become stronger and, as a result, reduce fall risk.  The study was published by the Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy (APTA) titled Older Adults’Perceptions Regarding the Role of Physical Therapists in Fall Prevention, A Qualitative Investigation (Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, March 23, 2021).

The report gives the example of participants who considered themselves independent and valued that independence.  But often they were being cared for in a facility or by a caregiver. Their view of independence was focused on maintaining their current level of functioning – not on how high or low that functioning was.

Participants thought of “physically active” as being able to do the activities of simple daily functioning. When researchers asked, “What first comes to mind when you think about being physically active, or staying physically fit?” A typical response was, “Well, being able to get out of bed, being able to dress myself, being able to feed myself, and being able to function in the way that most of us do or want to.” Going for walks, dancing, exercise routines or participating in sports they once enjoyed were notably absent from the responses

Those of us in the public health field know that the lives of seniors can be so rich in regards to the activities? in which they choose to participate.  The analysis of these interviews revealed just one primary difference between those who participated in one of the fall preventions programs and those who did not. Those who participated expressed that they “needed” the program, those who did not participate expressed a lack of need.

Lack of transportation was another significant barrier referenced in the study.  Needing to go somewhere for therapy makes it just that much harder to do.

As I mentioned last month, all of us in the public health sector who work with seniors need to evangelize and educate about what can be done.  Falls are one of the biggest fears that seniors have and that fear is a key indicator for predicting a fall but there seems to be a gap between that concern and understanding that they can do something to reduce the risk –  becoming independent and physically active.  I believe two of the biggest reasons for this gap are understanding and access.

At Odom we’re trying to do something about this by partnering with Senior Living Communities. We work with the staff to provide information, helping residents understand what “independent” and “physically” active can really mean for them.  We also work on site, eliminating the need to find transportation and taking time to get ready.  We’re happy to say that our data indicates our Senior Living clients show impressive improvement in functional mobility, balance, pain, gait speed, strength, transfer independence, and ADL independence.  More about this next month.