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How To Improve Mobility In Elderly

Mobility can be determined as the ability to move, this means walking independently or by using assistive devices. However, when we define mobility more broadly, it also includes movement outdoors and beyond the home, which involves the use of transportation.

It is something that most younger people take for granted, but as you grow older, you become at risk for diseases and ailments that can reduce your ability to perform day-to-day functions.

Many elderly struggles with mobility problems. Arthritis is just one cause of loss of mobility in a sense of physical activity. However, there are many ways to improve mobility. But, first things first.

Why mobility is important in the elderly?

Well, mobility in the elderly helps healthy aging as it relates to the fundamental human need for physical activity and moving. Benefits of mobility include:

  • Maintains the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falling and fracturing bones;
  • It preserves healthy muscles and bones, helps to control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis;
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, coronary heart disease and also helping to reduce blood pressure;
  • It also reduces the symptoms of anxiety, depression and promotes improvements in mood and feelings of well-being.

How to improve mobility in the elderly?

When immobility is an issue among the elderly, it can cause psychological complications and make the life of the person difficult.

A number of accessories have been developed to assist in improving mobility and, at the same time, participating in certain exercises can also help to reduce the impact of conditions like arthritis.

Below are some suggestions you may try to improve mobility.

Discuss Your Health with a Doctor

Before you take any action see your doctor. You may have a health state that doesn’t allow you to be active, and if you do, it’s important to know what your restrictions are.

Use Mobility Aids

Device to help the elderly move from one place to the other and avoid falls can mean the difference between living independently and depending on others.

There are mobility aids for seniors with restricted mobility like canes, walkers or rollators and mobility aids for seniors who are unable to walk like wheelchairs or power scooters. Mobility aids can be an enormous help.

In the following, we will take a look at aids that older people can use to assist in improving their mobility.


Canes provide an affordable way of offering support when arthritis and other problems affect joints, especially in the lower body. These are simple products that aim to provide better support for your body’s weight.

Canes also focus on distributing some of the weight from your legs toward your upper body. They do, however, tend to cause extra pressure on your wrists and hands. If arthritis or other condition affects these parts of your body, then you might want to look at alternative options.

The most common types of canes on the market include:

  • White canes
  • Forearm canes
  • Quad canes


Crutches are a good alternative to canes for people who are unable to deal with the extra pressure that a cane would put on their hands, as well as their wrist. Crutches also transfer the weight from your legs toward the upper area of your body, but they do not cause as much strain on your hands.

Crutches can be used as a single accessory, but some people may require a pair of these mobility aids for better support.

You will need to choose the right type of crutches for yourself, depending on how severe your immobility is. The options that are currently available include:

  • Axillary crutches, also known as underarm crutches
  • Lofstrand crutches, also known as forearm crutches
  • Platform crutches

Mobility Walkers

You may know walkers by the name of Zimmer frames. These are usually made from metal, and they tend to feature four legs. The idea behind a walker is to add more stability to your movement.

They are much more supportive compared to crutches and canes but do take up more space while walking. While most of these walking accessories will have four legs, basic options with three legs are also available.

There are different types of walkers available. These generally tend to include:

  • Rollators
  • Knee walkers
  • Walker-cane hybrid models


A wheelchair is a mobility aid for people who are unable to walk, as well as for cases when it is critical to avoid putting pressure on the lower limbs.

This mobility aid features a chair-like structure, where you can sit in, with four wheels that allow you to move around.

Some electronic options are available as well, which allows you to move about with remote control.

Mobility Scooters

A mobility scooter is an electronic device that helps you move around when you are unable to walk. This type of mobility aid is much more expensive than the other options but surely makes up for the higher price tag by being more convenient.

Consider Home Modification

The environment can affect one’s mobility. Along with mobility aids, home modifications can reduce the risk of falls and can help the elderly stay independent in their home for as long as possible.

If you want an aging-friendly home you should invest in specific changes that are important for keeping you safe in a bathroom, living room or in the kitchen. You may consider rails, grab bars, ramps and many more.

Exercise & Stay Active

Physical activity is important. Exercising is known to help relieve stress, which could improve the psychological health of the individual. Some of the safest and entertaining exercises for the elderly are low impact exercises.

Low impact activities are health beneficial and represent a low risk of injury for seniors with mobility issues. These exercises may help to improve joint flexibility and ease pain in older people.

A few simple exercises that may be useful for older individuals include:

  • Upper body clamshell
  • Seated abdominal press
  • Low-back rotation stretch
  • Side bends
  • Semi-sits

These type of exercises do not put too much strain on the body but still provides an opportunity to help improve mobility and keep the body active.

In addition to these, taking up a yoga class may also be a good way for an older person to improve flexibility and mobility. You may consider also walking, swimming, cycling, Tai chi or ballroom dancing.

With a mixture of all those exercises, you can maintain stability, increase shoulder flexibility, stretch your lower back and strengthen your knee muscles.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Overweight or underweight has a straight impact on the health and well-being of seniors in multiple ways:

Obesity is the main risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Overweight can restrict mobility and make maintaining independence more challenging because of the strain on lower extremity joints. Obesity in the elderly raises the risk of arthritis, respiratory disease, and skin conditions.

Also being underweight grows the risk of fracturing a bone and can enfeeble the immune system.

Know the effects of medication

Quite a few regularly used drugs are known to make balance problems in aging adults.

Drugs in a class known as anticholinergics, which includes drugs for overactive bladder or certain drugs for nerve pain or depression.

Sedatives and tranquilizers, which are often prescribed for sleep or for anxiety can also increase fall risk or can provoke confusion.

Before you take any action regarding your medication, you need to see your doctor, he may prescript you other ones or reduce the dosage of existing ones.

What causes mobility problems in the elderly?

Lots of factors might contribute to being less mobile. Common factors that lead to loss of mobility are low physical activity, fear of falling, depression, obesity, impaired strength and balance, and chronic diseases such as arthritis and Parkinsons.

Below are the most common causes of mobility problems in the elderly.


Arthritis often arises in the knees and in the joints of the elbows and hands. Protective cartilage at the ends of bones minimizes and it causes pain, as well as stiffness. Arthritis includes the swelling and inflammation of the joints and can cause elderly pain when walking. The elderly most often have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout. Luckily there are a lot of ways for managing mobility problems related to osteoarthritis.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia and Alzheimer’s often leave a senior’s physical health undamaged, but they can, however, cause some problems with mobility. Seniors may lose the ability to avoid tripping hazards like navigate stairs and perform eating or writing. To manage this problem caregivers need to take preventative steps that keep seniors safe.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s is a type of central nervous system disarray that makes it hard for the body to control muscles. Seniors often have tremors or muscular stiffness that affects the way they walk, talk, or perform other activities. It cannot be cured, but some medications may ease the symptoms.

Neuromuscular disorders

Neuromuscular disorders can result in debased muscles and nerve tissues that cause seniors unable to move ordinarily. Treatments to slow the progression of the disease might include taking medications and reducing stress. Mobility aids can help to increase mobility also.

Other factors

There are also some other factors: illness like multiple sclerosis, treatments for an illness like surgery, weakness and fatigue, breathlessness or pain. As I have mentioned before there can be also psychological or environmental factors as well.

How to measure mobility in the elderly?

You should know some basics of how to measure your mobility. The key factors of mobility include physical, environmental, cognitive, psychosocial and financial impact.

Cognitive factors

Cognitive factors include a broad range of elements such as mental status, memory, processing, functioning.

Psychosocial determinants

Psychosocial determinants include factors like coping behaviors, self-efficacy, depression, fear, and relationships with other people that affect interest or motivation to be mobile.

Physical function

Physical function can be walking or cycling. If you have trouble walking you should consider using assistive devices. By using walking aids it is possible to increase endurance and maximizing bone healing. Physical function in the elderly is often assessed with standardized performance-based tests called EMS or the elderly mobility scale.

EMS has been validated through the following studies and presents good reliability. There are 7 dimensions of functional performance evaluated, which refer to the abilities to perform activities of daily living.


The mobility environment expands farther from the home. Specific challenges faced at home or outside can make mobility hazardous especially with age-related changes such as impaired vision and reaction time. To increase the possibility of falling do consider some home modifications.


Finances also directly affect mobility and interact with other key factors to influence generall mobility status. Seniors with lower incomes are at higher risk for mobility disability. So, finances have the potential to influence relationships or to access to shops or services.

What’s next?

Mobility in the elderly is important for social, psychological, and physical health. Impaired mobility can lead to falls and loss of independence. To improve mobility seniors should do some exercises daily and maintain a healthy weight. To maintain mobility one should use mobility aids and sustain the elderly-friendly environment.

I hope this was a helpful post. If you have problems with stair climbing you should check how to make stairs easier for seniors. In case you live alone be sure to check my tips for elderly living alone. Here are also some tips on how to stay independent in old age.

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