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November 4, 2021

Let’s Get Moving! How Physical Therapy Helps Seniors Stay Active

Shot of a female physician working with a senior patient in a nursing home
Physical therapy benefits

The phrase “use it or lose it” is often used to describe the importance of improving balance, strength, and mobility as we age. While it’s natural to lose some flexibility and functionality as we get older, incorporating safe, regular movement can make a world of difference when it comes to active aging—and a senior physical therapy program is an excellent place to start.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed exercise. Contrary to popular belief, physical therapy is not just for those recovering from major injuries. For seniors, proactive physical therapy can help them improve their balance and strength, increase mobility, and enhance their overall fitness, all of which can allow them to maintain their independence for longer and continue doing what they love most.

Here’s a closer look at some of the many benefits of physical therapy for seniors:

#1: Prevent falls

Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in adults over the age of 65, and one in four older Americans will experience a fall each year. Even if a fall doesn’t result in a major injury, it can cause a senior to become fearful of falling again, which may make it difficult for them to stay active and maintain the same quality of life.

Thankfully, falls can be prevented. Physical therapists use special exercises to help seniors improve their coordination, flexibility, strength, and gait. Physical therapy is also used after falls to help seniors recover and reduce their risk of future falls. 

#2: Relieve and manage chronic pain naturally

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapy is recognized as a natural, safe, and effective alternative to prescription pain medication to treat chronic pain conditions. Physical therapy can help patients manage their pain while relying on lower doses or less frequent doses of medicine, or even none at all.

#3: Enhance recovery and healing

Physical therapy plays a vital role in the recovery process after a serious illness, injury, or scheduled surgery such as a joint replacement. In addition to relieving pain and discomfort, physical therapy help reduce swelling and inflammation, promote healing, and ultimately speed up recovery time.

#4: Treat the symptoms of certain health conditions

Physical therapy is also used to help address the symptoms of certain health conditions and diseases that become more common with age. Seniors are turning to physical therapy for help with specific health issues such as:

  • Arthritis — Physical therapy treatments can help reduce swelling and pain
  • Stroke — Physical therapists can help seniors recovering from a stroke regain strength and function to the affected parts of the body
  • Bladder control — Although urinary incontinence is a common problem among seniors, it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help seniors improve strength in certain muscles to keep symptoms at bay.
  • Parkinson’s disease — Early intervention with physical therapy can help delay the progression of severe Parkinson’s symptoms and preserve a greater level of flexibility and mobility
  • Alzheimer’s disease — Physical therapy for seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia often involves familiar types of movement such as walking, dancing, and gardening to help them promote mobility and reduce fall risks

#5: Maintain an active, healthy lifestyle

It’s never too late to reap the health rewards of exercise, which is a key component of active aging. For seniors who have been inactive for a while and want to begin an exercise routine, physical therapy provides a safe, effective way to get started. Working one-on-one with a physical therapist can help seniors gain the mobility and confidence they need to safely progress to other physical activities such as walking, swimming, golfing, or strength and aerobics classes.  

In-home or on-site physical therapy: Which is right for you?

Physical therapy can be provided in a variety of different settings. For example, seniors who wish to receive physical therapy treatments in their own home may choose at-home physical therapy services. This option is ideal for older adults who need therapy treatments a few times a week but have difficulty leaving the house.

A short-term stay in an inpatient senior rehabilitation center is often recommended for seniors who are recovering from a serious illness, surgery, or injury and need daily support and therapy treatments. Specialized senior rehabilitation facilities, like the Bethany Rehabilitation Center, were designed to help older adults focus on their recovery in a supportive, healing environment.

Located on the beautiful Bethany Village campus, the state-of-the-art Bethany Rehabilitation Center provides short-term nursing care and a full range of therapy services—including physical, occupational, and speech therapy—to help seniors recuperate and get back to doing what they love. After completing their inpatient rehab stay, many seniors choose to continue their recovery with at-home physical therapy through Graceworks at Home, which delivers Bethany Village care in the comfort of home. 

If you would like to learn more about the physical therapy services provided by Graceworks at Home or the Bethany Rehabilitation Center, please give us a call at (937) 433-2110 or fill out our contact form, and we’ll be in touch with you right away.