Modern medicine has lengthened our lives, but unfortunately, many older people physically deteriorate to a level that makes them vulnerable to minor health setbacks. Frailty is a syndrome marked by weakness, poor mobility, a slow gait, and excessive fatigue. Frail individuals are unable to adequately recover from physical activity or a challenge to their health. Minor illnesses send them to the hospital, nursing home, or assisted living center. Frail individuals are often unable to tolerate beneficial medical procedures and must live with pain and physical restrictions. Frailty is a problem that responds very well to treatment.
In the 65 year old plus population, frailty syndrome is common. Fifteen percent of the non-nursing home population is frail and forty five percent is pre-frail. Frail individuals are far more likely to fall. Forty percent of the frail and twenty two percent of the pre-frail individuals are hospitalized every year. Frailty is a marker for adverse health outcomes and a means of identifying opportunities for intervention in patient care.
Physical activity has been shown to be the best preventative and treatment for frailty. Patients bounce back from surgery much better if they under take a program of prehabilitation exercise prior to surgery. Research on rehabilitation has demonstrated the benefits of exercise to restore strength and mobility in the frail population. Take the time to read, One Last Question Before the Operation: Just How Frail Are You? by Paula Span in the October 27, 2017 issue of the New York Times. Read the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/27/health/elderly-surgery-frailty.html
In the senior population, fitness activities must focus on training that maintains functional mobility and an independent lifestyle. You need to stand up and train to be a more graceful and competent walker. Practice drills that improve your capacity to transfer from the floor to standing. Always include balance and reaction exercises that keep you free from falls. Foremost are strengthening activities that maintain bone density and restore capacity to lift, carry, push, and pull.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
* New York Times, One Last Question Before the Operation: Just How Frail Are You? Paula Span, October 27, 2017