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Prepare yourself for older age: be healthier and happier

Have you had a serious or prolonged injury that really set you back?

There is a high chance that your body still has changes from then, and these can impact on you now and more as you age.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As a private Occupational Therapist, I have vast experience in helping people experiencing reduced mobility and limitations in self- care tasks. I have seen how a reduction in life skills in older people leads to a spiral down; to less and less activity choices.

I strongly believe the journey into older age can be better. One great way is for individuals to work towards reducing the impact of very old injuries on the body- so as an older person there may be less pain and greater participation in day to day life.

I have heard from many older people who believe their ailments stem from injuries and illnesses from their earlier life. For example, the “older digger” who says his back pain is from carrying the unit’s heavy communications pack day in and day out – he now has bone on bone spine changes. At the age of 80 he will not consider spinal surgery and so manages the pain in less invasive ways.

Or the old football player who says “I played top level football up to my early 30’s; did my knee one year and towards the end I pulled up very stiff and sore for days after every game ”. Now he has had a knee replacement and back pain that just won’t go away.

The "breast cancer survivor" has an extremely high risk of peristent soft tissue changes from breast surgery, chemo and radiotherapy. In fact nearly 50% of most study groups experience at least one serious upper body side effect. These changes really affect posture, upper body strength and shoulder pain for the years after.

Now, sound soft tissue, biomechanical and postural reasons explain how serious and prolonged injuries can affect the body long term. Old injuries can be managed overtime to reduce the secondary wear and tear to the body. Personalized exercise and massage programs can be valuable for older people. In my practice, I assess an individual’s past injuries to see what residual and compensation changes are still present in the soft tissues. Then daily exercise and targeted massage can be delivered via intensive rehab or a maintenance program – preferably before they hit “really old”.

I use the “grease and oil change” and “use it or lose it” approach with myself and the people I help, because of stories like “the digger”, “the footy player” and the "breast cancer survivor".

I like this combination:

  1. personalized exercise

  2. personalized massage

  3. personalized stretches

  4. eat right for your body

Like good mainetence on a car- it must be targeted: grease the right bits and lubricate the places that need it. This is why people approaching older age need an allied health practitioner who can offer personalized performance and soft tissue assessment combined with managing changes associated with ageing.

Consider your injury/ health story, do you need to develop a health and wellness program for your older age?

Author: Denise Stewart 30.1.2019

Director, Breast and Shoulder Rehab,

Founder, GOLD programs4health,

Founder, Breast Cancer Rehabilitation & Wellness ONLINE Summit

Registered Occupational Therapist B.Occ Thy (Qld)

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