The Importance of Remaining Active: Part One

In a world of rapidly developing technology and progressive medical methods, life expectancy is higher than ever and will only rise. We’ve already seen a boom in the Aged Care sector due to this. Consequently, the population of elderly people that experience frailty is also getting higher and higher. Frailty is often seen as an inevitable part of ageing, with symptoms such as weight loss, muscular weakness, fatigue and lowered speed and mobility. However, there are methods that can be put in place to reduce the chances of experiencing frailty, and they don’t even rely on the aforementioned advanced medical technology.

A recent study has shown that muscle training and protein supplements may be imperative to halting, and even reversing, frailty in elderly people. The study, published in the ‘British Journal of General Practice’, saw researchers conduct a systematic review of multiple frailty intervention studies. The authors concluded that, considering effectiveness and ease of implementation, the combination of muscle strength training and protein supplements were consistently found to be the best. Recommended by the authors was 20-25 minutes of activity four days a week, comprising of specific exercises to strengthen arm and leg muscles and improve balance and coordination. Additionally, a diet focusing on milk, eggs, tuna, chicken or formula protein was also encouraged.

Aligning with this idea is the concept of “reablement”, a word so little known that the red squiggly line appears under it when typed into MS Word. Reablement has quite a long history and can be known by many names but is simple in notion: “it is a rejection of the old assumption that ageing is an irreversible and inevitable process of physical and mental decline” (Fine, 2018). Just because someone is approaching the end of their lifespan, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to accept their fate of frailty and immobility.

How does one practice “reablement”? Exercise. Not only physical exercise of the muscles as previously mentioned, but mental, social, creative and self-care exercise. All are imperative to improving and maintaining quality of life no matter your age, so why stop when you reach a nursing home? It’s a focus on promoting support in maintaining those life skills rather than promoting dependence.

While preventing or delaying a decline in mental and physical health, reablement’s focus on independence also allows care staff and resources to shift their attention to those who are highly dependent on the care and assistance that they provide. It seems like a simple yet flawless concept for all parties involved. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before we see these approaches applied to more aged care homes and home care packages around the world. For more information on Reablement, click here.