I’ve written a few posts lately relating housework to the proverb, ‘a stitch in time, saves nine’. This time I want to talk about something far more important than a tidy house. This time it’s about you. It’s all about bending your knees!
Let me tell you why. Paul and I both do volunteer work at an Aged Care Facility. Most of the residents are elderly, and most have some form of dementia. Some though are mentally ok, but their physical body has let them down. A few residents have lost so much muscle strength in their legs that the simple act of standing up from a chair is so difficult they can no longer realistically live alone. The physiotherapists do their best to help them develop some strength in their legs, but clearly for most of them it’s too late. We saw the same thing with Paul’s dad, he struggled to stand up from a chair, and in the last few months of his life this led to him having to go into care. My own mum couldn’t get out of bed unassisted – she didn’t have any signs of dementia, yet she could no longer live alone.
If you’re like me, you hope that if you’re lucky enough to reach old age, one day you’re going to nod off to sleep in your big easy chair, or your comfortable bed and you’re not going to wake up. Until that day comes, we’ll be hoping that we can still cope in our own homes, able to get ourselves out of bed in the mornings, able to dress ourselves, and able to get ourselves to and from the toilet when necessary. From what I’ve witnessed if you, or I, are going to have any chance of living in our own homes unaided for the rest of a long life one thing we’re going to need to do is to maintain our leg strength.
Of course there’s other health issues factors that may also mean an aged care facility is unavoidable in later life. There are things you can do to help prevent some things, but not all things. Today I want to talk about the steps you can take to enable you to keep standing on your own two feet, hopefully in your own home and for the rest of your life.
From my observations it’s clear all of the people we see who can no longer get themselves out of a chair, could no doubt manage very well without giving it a seconds thought when they were my age. Their ability didn’t just disappear over night. Rather, they no doubt did what I’ve started doing in recent years – bending their back rather than their legs, and the loss of leg strength crept up gradually over many, many years.
It was only by helping with the Gentle Gym in the Care Facility that I became aware of what I’d started doing, and consequently I’ve noticed the effect it’s having on me. My legs have definitely been losing their strength in recent years. If I keep bending my back rather than my knees, in 10, or 20 years time, I too won’t be able to stand up unaided from a chair, or worse – the toilet.
As a consequence I’ve started to look for excuses to bend my knees, not just when lifting something either.
I bend at the knees to pick up my shoes, I bend at the knees to load the bottom drawer of the dishwasher. I bend my knees to remove an item of washing from the basket to hang on the line, and I bend at the knees to pull a weed from the garden. I used to bend at the waist to put Mr Tilly’s lead on him, now I bend at the knees, keeping my back straight.
I try to remember to bend my knees when I’m brushing my teeth. Of course I don’t need to bend at all to brush my teeth, but I figure it’s a good excuse to add a bit of extra strength to my legs. As well as trying to add incidental leg strengthening in to my daily routine, I’m finding a few deliberate squats help too.
I need to keep it up. This is one ‘stitch in time’ practice, that if I keep up, will have the potential to keep me living independently (all other mishaps aside) for the rest of my life. Once people have grown old and frail, and their legs have become so weak they can’t push themselves into a standing position it’s an almost impossible task to recover what’s been lost. If you don’t already bend at the knees, why not start today. Don’t wait until it’s to late!