7 Reasons to keep moving as we age
Mum stands in front of you, her eyes widening in anticipation as you begin to lift your leg. The large, clunky video camera glistens in the summer light, taunting you, urging you to move towards it. Dad stands behind, waiting to catch you if you fall, but hoping that he won’t need to. The shiny object has grabbed your attention, you have no choice but to try and grab it. You move your little legs slowly, but surely, as you walk towards your Mum with the camera. You’ve done it. You’ve taken your first steps. You are now free to roam in the big, wide world. The stink of hairspray and obnoxious perfume permeates the air, and as you bounce around on that dance floor, you know your hairstyle has no chance of falling out. Your favourite song is playing over the speakers and the words form in your mouth without you even realising. The circle of your friends grows larger as you whirl each other around without a care in the world. Your feet grow tired as you dance into the night. From taking your first steps, to dancing the night away at school discos or nightclubs, it is certain that from the moment we are born we are striving to move more. There is no doubt, among scientists and psychologists alike, that this movement is good for us no matter what form it comes in - lifting weight, learning martial arts, joining a gym, hiking, or playing a team sport all equally help us to stay fit and satisfy that need for movement we have as humans. However, as this ability to move is so fundamental to human life, it is often the case that we forget to relish it until we feel that we can no longer move in the ways that we used to. This is not cause to give up. As we age it is important that we continue to move, taking into account the possible physical challenged this may come with. This may feel impossible at times, but so did taking your first steps at some point in your life! There are many reasons to continue moving and exercising into our later years, including: MOOD:Movement releases endorphins, which are the feel good chemicals. This means that just by getting up and dancing or moving around, you can help yourself to get in a better mood! So if you are feeling flat or low, moving is a great way to create energy and pump endorphins through your body. This can help to alleviate depression and avoid boredom. STRENGTH:Just as was mentioned before, movement is a fundamental part of being a human. Without it, we would not be able to do anything and our muscles and joint would have no function at all! Therefore, it is very clear that inactivity can lead to atrophied muscles (which have decreased size and function). This makes walking, performing daily tasks like showering and getting dressed, and even breathing, much more difficult. In addition, increasing movement has also been proven to increase bone and muscle strength, which are both important for fall prevention – in fact, regular exercise can decrease hip fractures by 40%. BRAIN FUNCTION:When we exercise, we create more oxygen flow to the brain. This is vital for mental capacity and this increased blood flow can also help to slow down the degeneration of brain cells. HEALING:Exercising and moving has a direct connection to wound healing. Studies have shown that in active adults compared to non-active adults, the rate of wound healing is increased by up to 25%. CONNECTION:Movement is a great way to make sure you stay connected with people. Being around others and taking part in a similar activity to them in a relaxed environment, e.g. dancing, can provide opportunity to interact, share stories, and support each other. HEART HEALTH:With heart attacks being one of the highest causes of death in Australia, with one person dying every 12 minutes, it is important to give weight to participating in exercises that can decrease this figure. The heart is a muscle, as requires use to remain strong, with low impact cardiovascular exercise being the key to a healthy heart. But always make sure you have approval from a medical practitioner where required before you begin! BALANCE:As we age, we lose our sense of balance and begin to doubt that we can participate in activities we once enjoyed. There are a range of movement activities that can be enjoyed in a safe environment that will help increase confidence and become more secure in our spatial awareness.
THE ZIMMER FRAME
“Hold the handles, that’s it Margaret, now check that the brakes are on. Excellent, now after 3 push up through your legs, 1, 2, 3” You wouldn’t think that an inanimate object could represent so much but I both love and hate this thing.This metal frame with wheels. I love that it means I can get about. I loathe what it represents. The staff tell me to use it for my own safety, that I need it now to make sure I don’t fall.They nag me to hold onto it when I get up from my chair, “that’s it Margaret”. Most of the nurses are very patient with me but sometimes I feel so silly and helpless. I use it because I don’t want to get them in trouble as I know the boss tells them off if they see me without it. If I have a fall I worry that the nurses will lose their job and they have families to look after. This hard piece of metal that on one hand helps me to move but on the other signifies my lack of freedom. I used to be a dancer, I loved teaching the little children how to dance. I can remember the feeling I used to get being on stage. It felt like I was flying. Freedom. My body will not let me do those things any more. It started with my hip, the arthritis took over and after the replacement I could never move around as much as I used to. I loved to walk but after the fall my doctor told me not to walk alone anymore. I cried every day. Once I stopped going out I couldn’t see the point any more. What use is living if you can’t experience all life has to offer? When I fell again, I made the decision to move somewhere I could be looked after so my family didn’t have to worry so much. I like it here, people are nice. The food is good but not the same as cooking for myself.Sometimes I feel like a child again, I try to do most things myself but sometimes I have to ask for help. But this walking frame is the one thing I cannot get used to. The handles hurt my hands as the plastic is so hard. I used to have such great posture when I danced but now I look like a little old lady, hunched over. I feel like I have to lean over to walk which hurts my back. The nice physio helps me adjust the height so I don’t stoop over and I have a sign on the seat that says “SLOW DOWN” but I feel that the wheels go to fast for my legs and it scares me that I might slip. My dancing teacher used to comment on my strong leg muscles but now my once pointed toes shuffle along the ground as the nurses say “pick up your feet Margaret”. I sometimes wonder if it would be better to be like Mary, she has dementia. It’s really sad to see such a beautiful lady completely unaware of her surroundings but I am very envious of her physical health. She walks around all day long and does not need a walking frame. Even though she doesn’t really know where she is she is still able to move well. I do try to be grateful for what I have, I have had a great life and have a beautiful family but most days I am sad. I feel like my mind is trapped inside a body that has broken down. This frame, for all of the ways it restricts me is the only way I have any freedom.
WHAT WE DO AT THE DAISIE CHAIN
The Daisie Chain – created and nurtured by Emma Watts, out of an acute awareness of the need to meaningfully make connections between residents of Aged Care facilities, their families, volunteers and service providers (performers, teachers, entertainers, instructors etc)As a young girl, Emma Watts The Daisie Chain’s passionate director, would listen to her beautiful Nan sing “Daisy Daisy” to her – Emma’s Nan was always her biggest fan when it came to her love of music and Nan would come to all of her concerts, wherever and whenever they were. Beautiful Nan who has now passed away, was previously in a nursing home in the UK and it would’ve been very satisfying, and wonderful for her, if Emma could have sent a ‘surrogate visitor’ in on her behalf to visit. Now, as a music teacher and Zumba Gold instructor, Emma has seen so many times, how the power of music and movement have been transformational for elderly people who sometimes seem lost in their own world – and through her experiences, Emma has also witnessed many residents who seldom receive visitors. Enter The Daisie Chain – Connecting People With The Elderly – either through its Visitor Service which is a voluntary service matching volunteer visitors to residents, or through its ‘Daisie Chain Directory’, which helps Aged Care facilities to find enthusiastic entertainers, instructors and teachers. The Daisie Chain provides a streamlined service, making life much easier for Aged Care staff who are already busy focusing on providing the best care for their residents.All appropriate checks and qualifications of everyone involved, whether they be volunteers or service providers, is ensured before the go-ahead to be involved in our programs is granted. Tracey McLean