Mobility problems may range from mild trouble walking for long distances to more severe impairments that affect overall lifestyle and independence. A focus on promoting strengthened mobility for seniors in living centers not only fosters a sensible and caring environment, but inevitably strengthens the health and wellness of the community as a whole. Check out these 6 surprising ways to promote mobility amongst the seniors in living centers:

Canine companions

Not only are friendly, furry dogs therapeutic companions who help relieve feelings of stress and depression, but canines are also great exercise motivators. Mobility is largely based on retaining one’s muscle and bone strength, as well as good heart health, balance, and flexibility through low impact exercise. Weekly or even daily dog walks with a docile, low-energy dog breed especially are a great way to get residents out of their rooms and walking outdoors.

Physical activity counseling

For community members in the early stages of mobility decline, talking one-on-one with a counselor about their fears, concerns or mobility issues is a positive first step towards action. A 2013 study revealed that in-person sessions with a physical activity counselor was largely effective in slowing down the progress of mobility decline and boosting the patient’s own physical activity. Opening up about their own experience with new and frustrating mobility issues may also allow residents to consider talking with a doctor or specialist about mobility aids like a quad cane or cheap knee scooter to help keep them moving.

Gentle Yoga

While monthly programming at a living center for seniors might involve regular fitness events and mentally stimulating game nights, one activity that might be missing that supports strong mobility is yoga. With in-person guidance and instruction from a trained yogi who specializes in helping seniors, classes that offer gentle and restorative yoga practice can make a huge difference in the mobility of your residents. Gentle stretching, balance and coordination practice, simple poses, deep breathing and meditation are all part of the yoga recipe which not only helps strengthen bones, muscles, and lungs, but bolsters balance and flexibility which prevents falls and empowers seniors to stay mobile.

Vision and Hearing Rehabilitation

Multiple sensory impairments, especially with vision and hearing, can worsen an elderly person’s balance and general ability to avoid falls and get around with ease. Community health fairs where basic vision and hearing screenings are made available may provide the impetus some residents need to get further evaluation, risk assessment, or medical treatment for a sensory issue that could affect their mobility.

Eliminating Environmental Barriers

Research has also shown that environmental factors pose both physical and mental barriers for people with mobility problems, especially those who utilize a walking aid. Narrow hallways, obstructions like trashcans outside doorways, nursing carts left in common pathways, and even degraded sidewalks outside a living center can prevent people with mobility impairments from going out and taking part in activities that are well within their health capabilities. Reduced physical activity and fear of going outdoors can then lead to a more rapid mobility decline.

Fall Prevention and Education

With 1 in 3 seniors over 65 experiencing a fall at some point, preventing falls plays a key role in promoting continued mobility. Education sessions about fall prevention can be as simple as community nights for residents and their families to learn about preventing falls, i.e. clear clutter and trip hazards from living spaces, get vision checked regularly, and wear proper fitting shoes that support and stabilize movements. Consider hosting a “fall audit” as well where residents work with inspectors to gauge the fall risks in your senior center – from sidewalks cracks outside to poorly lit hallways inside.

Improving accessibility to walkways, motivating seniors to exercise, educating them about falls and health risks that can negatively affect their mobility – these simple, effective steps can make a big difference for the health of senior residents and the vitality of their community.