Biokinetics helps older people keep moving

by antoinette pombo
June 20, 2017
Category:   Articles, Events and News

Biokinetics is giving many residents at the Rand Aid retirement villages a new lease on life.

Hannah Raath, a biokineticist with a special interest in the elderly, and her team, often facilitate exercise sessions for the residents of Inyoni Creek, Elphin Lodge, Thornhill Manor and Tarentaal.

“Due to advanced medical care, people are living a lot longer now. If older adults participate in regular exercise, they can be a lot more functional and flexible in their golden years,” explains Hannah.

A Rand Aid resident, Lorraine Lynn, says biokinetics has worked wonders for her whole body. “I have bad osteoarthritis in my spine and used to weep with pain, but after I started biokinetics in February this year, I can move much easier, without pain.”

Hannah, who is qualified as an MSc (Med) Biokinetics, has a specific interest in fall preventions and motor learning in patients who have suffered a stroke or neural injury. Hannah’s Masters research focused on assessing which exercises are most effective in reducing falls in the elderly.

Hannah explains that biokinetics can enhance life through rehabilitative movement which is designed specifically for each person’s individual needs. The programmes can help with the treatment of orthopaedic injury, cardiac rehabilitation, the management of chronic diseases and the promotion of health and wellness.

“The process of ageing is complex. It involves many variables, including lifestyle factors, genetics and chronic diseases. These all interact with each other, and determine the manner in which we age. Regular physical exercise generates favourable responses that contribute to healthy ageing. People who exercise find that they have a lot more physical function and ability in their senior years, compared to sedentary people, who are more likely to experience frailty.

“Older people who participate regularly in endurance training benefit from lower blood pressure; especially those with who suffer from hypertension,” she says.

Sarcopenia, which refers to the loss of muscle mass, is a part of normal ageing and causes a reduction in muscle strength. There is a 30% reduction in strength between the ages of 50-70 years, (15% per decade), and from 70 years onwards, strength decreases by 30% each decade thereafter.

“Older adults also often lose their ability to balance, which can lead to falling. So, improving mobility and stability by exercising can enhance the body’s response to balance. This leads directly to reduction of fall risk in older people.”

Lastly, Hannah explains, ageing affects our joints. They may reduce their range and function with age. Improving flexibility enhances muscle or connective tissue properties. This causes a reduction in joint pain and a change in the way muscles move and improves one’s ability to perform daily activities.

Hannah believes all adults should avoid being inactive. She explains that some exercise is better than none. Even small amounts of activity is beneficial. “Guidelines emphasise that older people should aim to achieve 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise. If this is not possible due to chronic conditions, older people should be as physically active as their limitations allow them to be.”

Resident, Shelagh Hawes agrees. “I’ve been attending biokinetics classes for about three years now. The pain in my knee has gone away, my balance is better and I have gained more confidence when walking.”

“Shelagh has managed to strengthen her legs and her balance and mobility have improved.” Says Hannah.

Other residents also have positive stories to share. For instance, Hazel Murray says that after breaking her hip the second time, her balance was poor and her legs needed strengthening. “Biokinetics has helped me tremendously with both.”

Sue Benjamin, an Inyoni Creek resident, says she has arthritis. “After receiving treatment on and off since 2015, I realised that it is important to keep moving, despite the stiffness. Biokinetics has helped me loosen my joints and has increased my range of movement, balance and strength.”

Lorraine Pintusewitz explained that after both hip and knee replacements, she is walking much better, thanks to regular biokinetics sessions.

Both individual treatment and group exercise sessions are offered at three Rand Aid villages. The individual sessions are designed for people who have a specific injury, medical condition or physical challenge. These people require a higher level of supervision while group classes are ideal for people who have progressed from the individual sessions, and for people who have no specific physical complaint, but want to keep fit and improve their mobility and balance.

Hannah was recently interviewed on Carte Blanche. The programme introduced a few older people who were exceptionally fit and agile. “The primary message we were trying to get across is that older people, regardless of their ability, need to keep moving.”

Rand Aid residents participating in a mobility and balance training exercise class with Hannah Raath.

Leg marching while seated on a ball for leg strength and improved balance ability. Pictured are Hazel Murray (Tarentaal), Lorraine Pintusewitz (Inyoni Creek), Lorraine Lynn (Tarentaal), Shelagh Hawes (Elphin Lodge) and Sue Benjamin (Inyoni Creek), with biokineticist Hannah Raath.

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