In a time when older adults are not necessarily acting all that “old” it can be a bit misleading for families, friends and even the person himself in terms of risk from the plain old ordinary decisions we make day to day. As we age, even when we do so in a healthy and active fashion, there are physical, sensory and other changes that occur that put an older adult at risk. Often adults have come to find what works well for them; a consistent daily routine, preferred clothing and shoes, using the back stairway rather than the front and so on. Often these systems and habits are utilized because they have been shown to benefit the older adult, to make independence easier and promote greater comfort. While the older adult remains active and involved, changes of aging continue to occur including hearing or vision deficits, a decrease in ‘reserve’ energy to combat illness and injury, bone loss and risk of fracture and many other signs and symptoms. Then… we throw in a new twist, one that seems completely harmless and no one gives a second thought, new, top of the line, just like the kids and grandkids – running shoes.
When a family sees a vibrant, physically active, ‘young’ for his age grandfather they may treat him as such without understanding some very simple but very real risks. For instance, it may seem fun to purchase Grandpa the same neon colored running shoes all of the grandchildren are getting for Christmas. He is always such a good sport and loves to connect with his beloved grandchildren. These are “sturdy and sensible” just like the old broken-in leather loafers that he has worn forever, right? Not if Grandpa is unaccustomed to wearing such a shoe with a high and wide sole that catches and grips carpet. The fall Grandpa sustained while wearing these great new shoes ends up with a fractured hip and a long period of recovery and rehabilitation. The change in footwear, the heaviness compared to his usual shoes, the ‘gripping’ feature of the running shoe and the extra wide sole can throw off a senior’s balance, catch unsuspectingly while walking or change one’s gait just enough to create an increased fall risk.
Promoting active, healthy aging and greater independence is the goal for older adults but there are times when even the simplest decisions and changes need a few moments of thought about how they could pose a risk, what might be affected by a new item or a moved piece of furniture and is this really a good choice for this person?