Mobility tips for seniors and their families

According to a 2005 CDC report, one-third of people in the U.S. 65 years or older struggle with walking three city blocks.

senior mobility

If you or someone you know experiences age-related mobility problems, a few simple tips can help.

These challenges can affect older adults’ quality of life. Mobility problems can also be the first signs of decline in older people, which can lead to loss of independent living. A loss of mobility can be gradual – or it can occur after a serious event like a stroke or fracture from a fall.

Another report from JAMA reviewed studies from 1985–2012 on mobility and aging. It offers advice for seniors, their families and caregivers.


According to the report, doctors should be asking older adults the following two questions:

  1. “For health or physical reasons, do you have difficulty climbing up 10 steps or walking a quarter of a mile?”
  2. “Because of health or physical reasons, have you changed the way you climb 10 steps or walk a quarter of a mile?”

Risk factors

The most common risk factors are older age, low physical activity, obesity, strength or balance impairment, and chronic diseases such as diabetes or arthritis.

Physical therapy can help.

The report says that referring to physical therapy may be appropriate, since physical therapists can create specific treatment plans. Most treatments involve resistance and balance exercises for improving physical weakness and balance disorders.

Assessing a patient’s physical environment is also important to determine the need for assistive devices or a ramp.

Mobility devices are important, too.

Devices such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs are used by more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. Benefits include reducing fall risk and improving independence.

Medications can increase risk.

Certain medications have side effects that may affect walking, balance or mental awareness and can increase the risk of falls by older adults.

Several types of medications – including antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihypertensives, sleeping pills and tranquilizers, and even some over-the-counter drugs – have been linked to falls and impaired mobility. Asking your doctor or pharmacist to conduct a careful comprehensive medication review (click for Walgreens appointment scheduler) can help.

Seniors may need help taking medications.

Impaired mobility can lead to trouble taking medicines as prescribed and even physically accessing a pharmacy. Using an inhaler or eye drops and opening medication vials, for example, can pose problems for older adults. Aids such as calendar packages for medications can be useful along with non-child-resistant prescription vials.

Given the aging of the U.S. population and the effects of mobility problems, simple advice on how to identify and manage these problems can go a long way.

Be well, stay well!

~ Pharmacist Andy

  • Gerry B.

    I have lumbar stenosis which affects my right leg. I know I must do exercises such as step ups, stretching, side to side walking, sitting on a balance ball, riding a stationary bike, and using hand weights every day to maintain balance and mental alertness. I think of it like I think of brushing my teeth and bathing each day. It’s becoming something I do to feel good about myself.

    • Pharmacist Andy

      I’m glad that the exercises are working for you. Your suggestion of integrating exercises into daily routines is an excellent one.

  • Nona

    I’ve recently had to begin using a cane due to an instability problem. I can walk just fine, but loose my balance and using a cane embarrassed me at first. Now I find it very helpful in many ways plus it usually garners me additional aid from strangers who are very kind and open doors for me, offer to help me carry a package, etc. That gives me the opportunity to smile at them, thank them and sometimes they will strike up a conversation with me. It encourages others to be helpful and for me to be grateful. Now I find it a pleasant addition!

    • Pharmacist Andy

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m confident that your positive experience is motivating for others who use a cane or other assistive device to help get around.