“Already Old” Doesn’t Mean It’s OK Being Frail

Aging is inevitable but frailty doesn’t have to be. It’s important to ask, why do some people become weak as they age and others don’t? Sometimes people who have had an amputation or past health conditions are actually stronger than those with no medical issues and good nutritional health.

The answer is simple. Movement. Less movement = weaker muscles and bones.

What are we doing when we’re moving?

An occupation, an activity. So the less activities we do the weaker we are likely to become.

‘But I’m not as young as I used to be’ my mother says and she’s right. As we get older we won’t be able to keep up with the pace and agility we had when we were younger, so that leads us on to our next question about expectations.

Realistic expectations are key to staying healthy through occupations as we age. Expectations may come from ourselves and others around us, such as family and friends. So it’s important to try and get everyone on the same page and understanding what is achievable.

Step 1. Use It or Lose It.

Don’t stop doing your routine activities. Even if someone offers to do it for you as an expression of love. Likewise don’t stop a person doing their routine activities (which they can safely do independently) because they are ‘getting old’ or because that’s the maid’s job now.

The less active an aging person is, the more likely they are going to become frail and a falls risk in the future. Going down this road comes with financial and logistic burdens which can be avoided. The more things a person can ‘do’ in a day, the more things they will be able to keep doing in the future.

Step 2: Reverse Frailty

Yes you read that correctly, there is evidence that frailty can be reversed. Dr Ken Rockwood and his team have done lots of good work in the area of frailty in the older adult population. They have developed the The Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS), an easy to use scale to track frailty, with examples of how each score may relate to an individual’s function. Through a comprehensive  geriatric assessment, correct nutrition, management of existing conditions and staying active in occupations, CFS scores can decrease. And when frailty decreases, overall health and quality of life tends to improve. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s no age brackets on this scale. That’s because frailty isn’t necessarily an age dependent issue.

copyright Dalhouse University

So next time you hear the phrase “old already” being used as a reason to stop doing an activity, take a look at the frail scale again and remember frailty can be accelerated, decreased and reversed.

Not sure how to keep doing your valued activities? Ask our occupational therapists, this is their expertise!

Reversing Frailty Levels in Primary Care Using the CARES Model.

Rockwood K, Song X, MacKnight C, Bergman H, Hogan DB, McDowell I, Mitnitski A. A global clinical measure of fitness and frailty in elderly people. CMAJ. 2005 Aug 30;173(5):489-95