A new study has revealed that America’s senior citizens aren’t exactly willing to enjoy their golden years sitting down. Instead, about 25 percent of U.S. senior citizens are making use of canes, walkers, and related mobility devices.
According to a survey involving over 7,600 Medicare beneficiaries, the use of mobility devices had risen by close to 50 percent over the past eight years. In addition, close to ten percent of all seniors surveyed use multiple mobility devices to help them walk. This, according to researchers, is driven by a number of factors. These include elderly individuals needing to continue moving around, and the fact that America’s population is indeed aging; many members of the Baby Boomer demographic, after all, are now at, or are nearing retirement age.
Social acceptance was another driving factor cited by study lead Nancy Geil from the University of Vermont. “It may also be that these devices are just more socially acceptable,” she opined. “Or that changes in the environment have improved accessibility for those who use them. Or that as people live longer there is simply more disability, and a growing need.” According to Geil’s study, mobility device usage among people aged 65 and up had gone up from 16 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2012, a significant increase in a span of only eight years. This figure may likely be higher at the present time, due to the aforementioned phenomenon of Baby Boomers hitting 65.
Still, there are some who expressed surprise at Geil’s findings. These include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center geriatric medicine fellow Dr. Lauren Gleason. “People are living longer,” she observed. “And there’s also more community knowledge about the risk of falling, which might have led to a greater acceptance of devices.” Gleason also noted that there are more seniors living in the community, as opposed to getting sent to nursing homes. According to her, this may also mean that there are more elderly Americans who are “probably living at home with higher disability and more need for help.”
Geil and her associates had taken data collected in 2011 and 2012 as part of the National Health and Aging Trends Study and compared it with data taken in a similar statistical report from 2004, the Health and Retirement Study. None of the seniors covered in the study had been institutionalized, and all were asked questions regarding visual impairment, balance and coordination, and pain-related complaints. They were also tested to see how well they can walk, carry things, bend, reach, grasp, or lift objects. The seniors were asked if they use any mobility device, what type of device they use, and whether they had fallen down, or at least expressed concern about falling down, over the past year.
While the study’s findings that almost a quarter of American seniors use mobility devices can be considered interesting, there were other important takeaways from the report. Researchers found that women are about 20 to 30 percent more likely to use these devices as compared to men, and that African-Americans and Hispanics were also more likely to use them. Those with a history of obesity, pain, and balance/coordination issues were, as expected, had a greater chance of using mobility devices than those without such issues.