Mobility A “Use it or Lose it” Phenomenon
by Sandra Webber, PhD
Most people don’t need to be convinced of the importance of being able to get around. It’s vital for independence. It means being out there in the community when and where we choose. It means easy connections to friends and family. Mobility is closely linked to both physical and psychological health.
When mobility is impaired by problems such as arthritis or being overweight, activities become restricted. This results in physical deconditioning – loss of strength, balance, and co-ordination.
Mobility limitation has been shown to be an early predictor of physical disability, depression, falls, loss of independence, and institutionalization.
To maintain mobility, it is important to stay active in safe ways. The traditional “use it or lose it” cliché applies. Any form of walking – outdoors, in the hallways, at the mall – is a good idea. Walking builds cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance, balance, and bone mass. The more we walk, the better we respond to challenges in the environment, such as walking uphill or over uneven ground. That reduces the risk of falls.
Any aerobic activity, such as walking, swimming, dancing, or cycling, helps with weight control and improves the symptoms of arthritis. This kind of exercise strengthens the large muscles in the hips and legs – crucial for things like getting up from a chair and climbing stairs.
For more ideas on keeping fit and mobile, check out Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults, available on the Public Health Agency of Canada website.
About the Author
Sandra Webber has a background in physiotherapy and teaches at the University of Saskatchewan. Her research focuses on mobility issues in older adults, the importance of strength and power, and physical activity after knee and hip joint replacements.
A few more tips on healthy aging:
Have your doctor or pharmacist review your medications regularly. This ensures you are getting the best treatment effects and a minimum of side effects.
If you drive, get your vision checked regularly.
Keep your mind active. Do things that challenge cognition, such as reading, playing chess, card games, crossword puzzles, or crafts.
Try to stay “connected.” Maintain a wide social network. Stay abreast of the transportation options in your community. People who do this have more mobility choices available to them.
Apple picking within everyone’s reach
A unique non-profit organization called Kéroul has dedicated itself to promoting tourism for people with physical disabilities within the province of Québec. Accessibility is a key issue for the disabled and elderly, and Kéroul offers more than 200 tourism experiences that meet its standards, forming what is called The Accessible Road.
Kéroul has trained 1400 people in the hospitality and tourism industry in the principles of accessibility through its program Welcoming Ways.
photo by Kéroul
To be part of the Accessible Road, establishments must meet these criteria:
- Staff trained in the Welcoming Ways program to guarantee quality service
- Full access to the site
- An entrance free of any obstacles.
- Doors with at least 76 centimetres of width clearance for a wheelchair
- Corridors free of obstacles and with at least 92 centimetres of clearance for turning in a wheelchair
- Public restrooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms with at least 1.5 m X 1.5 m of manoeuvring
- Outdoor paths of a least one meter width
- Grab bars for toilets, showers, and bathtubs
- At least 68.5 centimetres of clearance beneath washbasins.
A sample outing: Le Beau Markon
For instance, if you’re planning an outing, why not go to the île d’Orléans, the cradle of French America? To discover the local specialties, take advantage of fully accessible activities at the farm Le Beau Markon, located in Sainte-Famille. This agritourism farm offers apple picking and many enjoyable farm activities. A significant portion of its clientele comes from long-term care centres. Even if you are 100 years old, this outing is for you.
photo by P. Markon
Owners Dominique Le Beau and Philippe Markon are accreditated by Kéroul as providers of Welcoming Ways. They welcome you with a smile and accept only one group at a time, reserving a section of the orchard for each group. This means that each group can easily pick apples from low-hanging branches. Dominique and Philippe ensure that the orchard is free of obstacles, including fruit that has fallen to the ground. They take care to have easy-to-navigate slopes, grass, and trails.
Once you have picked and tagged your bag of apples, they go in a cart and are delivered to your bus, leaving you unencumbered as you explore the orchard. And there is no need to rush your outing for lack of a fully accessible washroom. All this is taken care of. The rustic beauty of the site becomes the perfect backdrop for a picnic. You can have a close look at the farm animals and discover all that happens on the farm.
Fun even on a rainy day
Groups love coming to Le Beau Markon, even when it’s not very nice outside. The staff pick several varieties of apples in the morning and display them in the reception room, where you can take your pick. In the barn, you’ll listen to a presentation (supported with photos) about the life of the farm over a one-year period, including the orchard in flowers, the sugar shack, and the production of apple juice and maple syrup.
Under the large sloping roof adjacent to the barn, the horse and the dog will greet and entertain you. After that, it’s fresh apple juice tasting and a draw for different products of the farm.
So much to take away
Not only will you be able to pick your own basket of apples, but you will learn all about the different varieties and their features. And while you’re there, why not add to your basket a bottle of the farm’s delicious fresh apple cider, some pears grown in the orchard, a few maple products, or a container of their home-made sauerkraut?
A memorable day at the orchard in l’île d’Orléans is just one example of the many accessible outings that Kéroul promotes. In 2011, the organization won the Ulysses Award for Innovation in Non-governmental Organizations from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Lyne Ménar, Assistant Director at Kéroul.