This month's newsletter is about Independence into old age - is it possible?

Many of us wonder if we will be able to remain independent as we age. What about your parents? A research study about Independence in old age was published last month. The results are encouraging.

Scientists at the Danish Aging Research Center found that "exceptional longevity does NOT result in excessive levels of disability." The researchers surveyed the ALL Danes born in 1905 as they aged from 92 to 100 years.

The aim of the study was to evaluate the continued independence of those in the study. Independence was defined as being able to perform basic activities of daily living without assistance from other persons and having a MiniMental State Examination (MMSE) score of 23 or higher.

The researchers found that over the 8 years of the study, most people remained independent! Only about 1/3 lost thier independence, and that happened most often in their oldest years.

That study is encouraging but of course the real question we all have is whether WE will be able to retain OUR independence as we age. Will we be able to care for ourselves and live on our own?

Actually there is a test you can take right now that researchers say is a good predictor of your likelihood of needing assisted care or nursing home care as you age.

Most people who need assisted care or nursing home placement are those who lose leg strength.

Here is a simple test you can do right now to find out how you rate.

Get up from your chair without using you hands.

Did you find it easy? If so, you are likely to remain independent as you age. Keep getting up from chairs without using your hands. Do it at least once a day. You want to be able to rise from a chair or a toilet seat and get out of a car without using your hands.

But what if you found it difficult to do? If you found it difficult or impossible to do, consider practicing this skill.

HINT. Use a fairly high, straight back chair. Put your hands on your thighs, rock a bit and start upwards as you rock forward. If you can not do it right away, keep practicing. You will find a way.

If you still can not do it, you may need to strengthen your leg muscles. Here is a simple exercise, Stand with your back against the front door or door frame. Put your feet 15 - 18 inches from the wall. Now bend your knees and slide downward. (To prevent injury, do not let your knees go out past your toes,) Now push yourself back up the door. Do this 3-5 times a couple times a day. It will strengthen your quadriceps and that should help you rise from a sitting position without using your hands.

Practice, practice, practice. Your future independence depends on it.

If you have elders in your family, talk to them about this exercise. Explain that can help them stay out of a nursing home as they age. Teach them about 'getting out of a chair without using your hands exercise'.

If they can not do it, it might be worth asking for a referral for PT. A few physical therapy sessions with a professional should help them learn this important skill. If someone wants to remain independent, being able to get up and down on their own is once of the key skills to retain.

Let's all aim to be like the 2/3 of the Danes who were able to remain independent at age 98, 99 and 100.

That is it for this month. If there is a particular topic you would like me to cover in a future newsletter, you can let me know by hitting 'reply' to this newsletter. Leave the subject line as it is so your email does not wind up in the SPAM pile.

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Enjoy November!