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As we exit pandemic, experts say we must help elderly transition back to normal life

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Posted at 1:16 PM, Jun 22, 2021

As people continue to reemerge from their homes and back into a more active routine, they may find themselves in more pain.

“When we're talking about adults getting active, we need to do more than just run up, put our tennis shoes on and run out the door, because that is a sure recipe for getting hurt,” said Dr. Vonda Wright, orthopedic surgeon and expert in women's health and active aging.

The concern is especially high among older adults. They are at increased risk of physical and cognitive decline. That puts them at a greater risk for a fall.

“Because what happens as we get into really senior age, 70 and above, when we fall and break our hips, 50% of us never returned to pre-fall function,” said Wright.

Wright says our balance starts to decline in our 30s.

Anyone can improve their balance by simply standing on one foot while doing things like brushing their teeth or standing around the house.

She recommends people ease back into exercise, starting off at about half of what they used to do, but only after warming up first.

“Whether that's something simple, like arm circles, hip circles, doing a few squats in place, so that our heart rate is already up a little bit and our body knows, ‘oh I’m getting ready for activities,’” said Wright.

Loss of lean muscle mass can happen within a week for someone who has been very sick or immobile.

Wright recommends incorporating strength training with aerobic activity and possibly even physical therapy.

“And so when we think of physical therapy somewhere, we think, ‘oh I’m recovering from an injury or I’ve just had a surgery.’ But no, it is really helpful to actually go for six or eight weeks, twice a week to have a therapist work with you so that you can rebuild your strength and not get hurt doing it,” said Wright.

Some parts of the country have programs sending a physical therapist to those who are homebound.