Improving Mobility in Seniors

For so many seniors today, one of the biggest challenges they face on a day-to-day basis is dealing with declining mobility. As seniors start to become less active, it becomes more difficult for them to get around when they do want to be mobile. While the problem is a common one, it isn’t impossible to combat. In fact, there are several easy, yet effective tips to help improve mobility in seniors and enjoy a better quality of life where getting around is easier than ever.

Here are a few tips to get started:

Walk, Even With Assistance

Walking is such a great activity for seniors, whether they are just walking around their home, or power-walking for several miles. While seniors should ideally be able to walk unassisted, that may not always be possible, especially if they have balance issues. If seniors need a walking aid, they should use it, as long as they are getting up and moving.

If possible, seniors should use an aid that offers the most mobility possible. So, if seniors have the option between a cane and a walker, but can safely use just the cane, they should do it.

When it comes to starting a walking routine, begin with short distances and slowly add a minute to your time every week. So, week 1, you walk for 10 minutes, and week 2 you walk for 11, until seniors are able to get up to 30 minutes per day. This slow progression can help seniors increase their strength, cardiovascular health and most importantly their mobility.

Balance, Balance, Balance

One of the biggest factors that tends to prevent seniors from being as mobile as they want to be has to do with balance issues. If seniors aren’t able to maintain proper balance, then they simply aren’t going to be as mobile as they want. Balance exercises should always be incorporated into any senior’s daily routine. Here are just a few exercises that specifically help build balance:

  • Core and abdominal exercisers
  • Balancing on one foot (use a wall or bed for support and attempt 10 seconds at a time)
  • Walking with one foot directly in front of the other
  • Glute and hip exercises
  • Gentle yoga moves
  • Daily full-body stretching to loosen up and activate muscles

    Make Exercise a Social Event

Seniors who want to improve their mobility and change their lives need to start somewhere, but the most important part of improving mobility has to be consistency.  An active lifestyle is crucial to long term health.  In order to see results, seniors should be doing something every day. In order to keep seniors accountable, joining a senior group, taking classes or having a workout buddy can really help with accountability.

Get in the Water

Any pool exercises, from walking in water to swimming and particularly water aerobics are fantastic ways for seniors to improve mobility. This is because these exercises allow seniors to move freely without any extra weight or pressure on their joints as they exercise in the weightless environment of the water.

Seniors may be surprised how quickly and easily they are able to improve their range of motion, strengthen their muscles and become more mobile when they start practicing in the water first.

Any senior who is sick of feeling restricted with their mobility should give these tips a try and see first-hand what a difference they can make in their overall quality of life.

Social Security Disability Benefits

Seniors who have a chronic or permanent medical condition may qualify to receive social security disability income (SSDI) payments from the federal government. To be covered by this program, you must meet work history and medical criteria.

Meeting the Work History Requirement

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have accumulated enough work credits. A worker can earn up to four work credits per year. Before 1978, a worker had to earn a minimum amount in each quarter of the year to earn a credit, but now credits are awarded based on the amount earned over the entire year. Thus it is possible for someone who is well paid to earn all four available credits for a year even if they didn’t work all four quarters of the year.

The required number of credits is dependent on the applicant’s age and tops out at 40. Here’s a breakdown of credits based on the age of disability onset:

  • Age 60 or over: 40 work credits required.
  • Age 43-59: The number required varies by age. The worker must have earned one credit for each year after turning 21 and including the year before the work became disabled. For example, a worker who becomes disabled at age 50 requires 28 work credits to qualify.
  • Age 31-42: A minimum of 20 credits is required.
  • Age 24-30: The number required varies by age, but is lowered to take into account their short work history. For example a 27-year-old only needs 12 credits.
  • Age 23 and under: The worker must have accumulated 6 credits during the 3-year period before the disability occurred.

Meeting the Definition of Disability

The Social Security medical definition of disability requires that you are unable to perform a “substantial” amount of work due to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to last at least 12 months, or possibly result in death. Applicants need to provide proof of both disability and their income.

What Qualifies as Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Social Security defines “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA, by how much you earn per month. For 2017, the amount is $1,170, or if you’re blind, $1,950. So if you’re working part time and not earning very much, you won’t automatically be declined for Social Security disability benefits. Income you earn from non-work sources, such as investment income, isn’t counted.

There are exceptions to the income cutoff. Claimants can argue that they only achieved their income because they were allowed to work under special conditions. Examples include:

  • Requiring help from other employees to perform work duties
  • Being permitted to work an unusual schedule or take extra rest breaks
  • Requiring special equipment or work especially suited to the person’s impairment
  • Having had a special opportunity to work due to a family relationship or special association with the employer

These and a few other circumstances can be used to make the case that the claimant’s income shouldn’t be counted as SGA.

At the other end of the spectrum, low income won’t automatically qualify you as unable to work. If the income is low because of the nature of the job rather than your ability to perform it, you may not qualify. Social Security can also consider extensive volunteer work, if it’s work that someone would normally be paid for, as proof of SGA.

So there are exceptions, but as a general guideline, people who work and earn more than the SGA threshold won’t be given benefits, unless they were working under special circumstances.

What qualifies as a disability?

Not every physical or mental impairment rises to the level of a disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a massive “Listing of Impairments” that details disability criteria for specific conditions ranging from spinal injuries to depression to severe immune dysfunction. If your condition meets the criteria listed in it, you’ll be considered disabled.

Even if your condition doesn’t meet the criteria outlined in the Social Security’s impairment listing, you may still qualify as disabled. This process is officially called getting a “medical-vocational allowance.” To determine your eligibility for SSDI under this prong of the program, you’ll have to demonstrate that your condition prevents you from performing substantial work, or SGA.

In making the decision as to whether you are disabled, the SSA will start by looking at your last job and determining if they think you can still perform it. They will then consider if there is other work you could reasonably adjust to do. They look at your medical condition, age, education, and past work experience and consider transferable skills you may have. 

If you’re already receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, your disability benefits will be converted to retirement benefits. The amount will remain the same.