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Published on June 28, 2018

woman helping elderly lady walk outdoors

Even With Limitations, You Can Make the Most of the Outdoors

Anyone with mobility limitations might see the sunshine on a fair day and miss the simple pleasure of time outside.

It’s still possible to make the most of the outdoors, which is among the best ways of feeling better.

“It’s pretty natural to feel 25 even when you’re 60 or older. For some, enjoying time outdoors might just mean slowing down a little and moving with more care,” said Hal Somer, PT, a physical therapist with Avera@Home.

Somer said that it starts with awareness of environment.

“Hurrying leads to falls and accidents regardless of our mobility level,” he said. “One easy way for you to avoid those sorts of spills is to stop and do a five-count when you transition from sitting to standing or from standing to walking.”

Problems with balance can lead to tumbles and falls. But sitting on the sidelines isn’t the answer – improving balance starts with practice.

“Start slowly, and work on your balance in places where you can get the support you need from railings, heavier furniture or assistance from a loved one or family member,” Somer said. “You can work on it at home. Start by supporting yourself and balancing on one leg, or standing with eyes closed. Make sure you’re using the supports you need, too, be they braces for ankles and feet, canes or walkers. They can keep you safe.”

With aging can come numbness, Somer said. Again, finding some help can really change the way you look at mobility and getting outdoors.

“When we plan ahead and coordinate with folks so we aren’t on our own, we can get moving safely and regain confidence as well,” he said. “It may be frustrating to need assistance, but that frustration is much better than a fall, an injury or hospitalization. Don’t give into the frustration – be mindful, seek and accept help, and keep moving.”

Here are some easy-to-remember tips that can help anyone who wants to move around outside do so in a more safe fashion:

  • Think long-term: Plan out the week and realize those times when you may need help with a longer walk or a trip to an appointment. Ask someone to go with you. Give yourself time to get the help you need.
  • Use those aids you need: As people regain confidence moving around outside, they may forget some key assistance aids such as canes, eyeglasses and hearing aids. Being safe requires all senses, even when you’re back to moving more surely.
  • We all need it: Exercises such as standing on one leg, standing with eyes closed or rising up and down on your toes can pay big dividends, but they have to be included in a daily routine. The more you move, the more you’ll want to move. And the farther you can go with safety.
  • Awareness wins: If you love walks at dawn, be aware of the morning dew and how it affects traction, or spots that might dry more slowly along your route. Ramps are one place where slick areas can appear as well.
  • The great outdoors: Warm weather leads to more time outside, so watch for new obstacles you haven’t faced for a few months. A good example is a lawn chair. Most designs offer almost no support, so use them – and anything in your environment, with patience, assistance and perseverance.

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