“Can OLD people do that stuff?”

Posted: February 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Earlier this week, I posted an article about the Benefits of Tia Chi for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The intent was to whet your appetite and follow-up with something (possibly a rant) concerning an exchange I witnessed…

I attended a rehab seminar taught by Dr. Jason Brown last Saturday. As we were workshopping some of the exercises, one attendee asked (asked is a polite term, challenged is a better term :)) a question concerning how this ‘stuff’ could be used with older people. Not to put words in his mouth, (ok maybe I am putting words in his mouth) but this gentleman made it seem that because someone was ‘old’ that the only thing we as manual therapists could do for them were passive treatments (manipulation, soft tissue, E-stim, etc.) and that physical exercise/rehab was out of the question. I think after hearing Dr. Brown’s response, the opposite is closer to the truth.

Note: I am going to combine Dr. Brown’s response at the seminar with an email follow-up I did with him a few days later.

Dr. Brown started out by asking this gentleman what the most common and serious problem that we as practitioners have to deal with concerning the older population. The agreed upon response in the room was independence. I think we have all heard or experienced this in our personal lives especially when a parent or grandparent can no longer live on his/her own because they lack the ability to perform functional activities (sitting, standing, bathroom use, bathing, getting dressed, etc.). Generally, when a person can no longer do these type of things on their own, intervention needs to be taken. ( There are obviously various considerations that are taken into account but for the purpose of this post I will just focus on the functional activities of daily living)

To break it down even further, let’s get specific:

1) Hip Hinge/squat pattern

As you can see, this picture looks pretty similar to something, no? (If not, use your imagination and insert a toilet behind the picture on right.) The point here is simple. This ‘exercise’ looks like something that you can only do if you are ‘young and healthy’ but really, this movement pattern is essential for daily functions like a)getting in and out of a car  b)getting on and off the toilet c)getting in/out of any chair.

2) Balance Training

Here are a couple quick facts from Dr. Craig Liebenson’s article on Fall Prevention:

  • The two-year mortality rate for 75-year-old individuals who fall and break a hip are greater than heart disease/cancer (yes, you read that correctly)
  • Tens of thousands of elderly people each year become disabled from falls that result in broken hips or other bones

I think those stats are pretty telling and perfectly answer the question, “Can old people do that stuff (exercise and rehab)?” Yes they can, and yes they should. In fact, those stats really tell us that old people need to do that stuff in order to continue with any sort of quality of life.

A quick way to test for adequate balance  (for anyone not just older people) is to stand in a doorway (for safety) on one foot. You should be able to do this for at least 10 seconds without needing to grab the wall for balance. (I think you will be surprised how many people, regardless of age, will fail this test)

This balance drill is a great place to start, but is their more we can do?? Glad you asked…

In fact, research published in The Journal of Gerontology  found that Power training (Power=Force x Velocity) improved the balance of older individuals. Specifically, the group that trained at 20% of their one rep max showed the greatest improvement in balance. (For anyone who wants to get geeky and read the whole article, shoot me a message)

I think she stole her grandson's wrestling singlet

To recap:

1) Yes, old people can do that stuff  including weight lifting and balance training.

2) It may actually be more important to do this type of training with older individuals vs the young, healthy athletes.

3) Active treatment can aid in prolonging an older persons independence.

4) Power training can aid in fall prevention.

Thanks for reading!

  1. […] Apparently my discussion of this topic during a recent seminar got someone else thinking. See what Jusin Rabinowitz had to say:  https://justinrabinowitz.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/can-old-people-do-that-stuff/ […]

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