Today’s seniors are busier than ever! With advances in healthcare and disease prevention, seniors are healthier and are able to lead longer, more active lives. However, injuries, illness, or the effects of aging can impair a senior’s ability to lead the type of life desired.
If a senior’s activity level is limited by deconditioning after an illness, pain from osteoarthritis, a history of falls, vestibular problems, weakness, or any other medical condition, it would be prudent to seek the assistance of a physical therapist. Physical therapy is a health profession that aims to remediate impairments and functional limitations. Physical therapy also strives to maximize a person’s mobility, functional ability, wellness, and quality of life.
After an injury, illness, or general deconditioning, a physical therapist can help to halt or reverse functional decline by helping seniors move in an efficient, less painful manner. To help seniors maintain active lifestyles, a physical therapist will determine an individualized treatment plan for each patient after performing a thorough assessment. The physical therapist would work with the patient to determine measurable, relevant goals to encourage compliance and to make physical therapy sessions more meaningful. For example, if a senior desires a return to playing golf, the physical therapist can help him or her practice walking on grassy terrain, maintain balance while swinging a club, and squat to pick up a ball or tee with proper body mechanics.
Physical therapy treatment plans may incorporate manual therapy techniques, stretching, therapeutic exercise, balance training, functional mobility training, gait training, and caregiver training. If necessary, a physical therapist may also recommend appropriate assistive devices such as canes or walkers for patients to help them move as safely as possible. Patient education regarding one’s condition, injury prevention, proper body mechanics, appropriate recreational activities, and general health and wellness is also a vital part of physical therapy intervention. To ensure continued progress and consistency, a physical therapist will often prescribe an individualized home exercise program.
Many physical therapists offer community based educational and fitness classes. Often, these classes can be found at senior centers, assisted living facilities, or offered by the city in which one lives. These classes are aimed at active seniors to help them remain active, educated, and safe. Physical therapists are often familiar with numerous community-based fitness and recreational programs and can make appropriate recommendations based on a person’s preferences and abilities.
With the guidance of a physical therapist, seniors can assume or continue a fitness program that would be most beneficial for them, whether it be walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, golfing, Tai Chi, or anything else of interest.
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