Older Adults, Exercise, and Technology: Hand in Hand.

Written by Tyra Vincek

Elderly adults are at higher susceptibility for a multitude of negative risks, such as dementia and sarcopenia. It has been found that engagement in even small amounts of physical activity can be beneficial to elderly people experiencing these outcomes of aging. While nothing can stop the aging process, it can be slowed down.

In a study conducted by Edimansyah Abdin et. Al (2017), data from a survey was used to determine how socialization and physical activeness effected their experience with dementia. The survey represented the adult population in Singapore that were 60 years of age and older. Questions on this survey included “how often do you see your children?” and “Taking into account both work and leisure, would you say that you are physically active, fairly physically active, or not at all physically active?” The material for establishing if an individual had dementia was determined using 10/66 dementia criteria, and the correlation between variables was determined using structural equation modelling.

The results of this study showed that adults who had contact with social groups and were physically active were less likely to be diagnosed with dementia (Abdin, E., 2017). Even those who were more likely to have dementia decreased their risk of being diagnosed significantly when they began engaging in physical activity. In contrast, those who were not in contact with friends or neighbors and who did not engage in physical activity usually had a history of stroke and were also had a higher chance of developing dementia. Another piece of information that was shared in the article was that engaging in physical activity can offset cognitive deficiencies for almost 30 years. Physical activity can also correspond with socialization if done in groups, which reduces the risk of loneliness (Abdin, E., 2017).

In a study conducted by Maren S. Fragala et. al (2016), leg strength, handgrip strength, and gait speed were measured in men and women aged 67 and older. They had one group walk 4 miles and another group walk 6 miles, and gait speed was measured. Grip strength was measured using a hand-held dynamometer, and leg extension was measured looking at the peak torque. This data was recorded to determine if there was a superiority in either group (Fragala, M. S., Alley, D. E., Shardell, M. D., Harris, T. B., McLean, R. R., Kiel, D. P., & … Kenny, A. M., (2016).

The researchers found that the group who walked more miles were much stronger overall. Not only were they stronger, but their gait was also much faster than the group who walked lower miles (Fragala, M. S., et. al, 2016). Measuring hand grip has been found to be a good way to determine overall strength in older adults, as well as determining if there is a presence of sarcopenia. There were some follow-up questions that needed to be answered, such as if slow gait speed is a result of weakness or if an individual becomes weak because of a lack in activity such as walking.

Inactivity is a problem in the United States, but it is even more prominent in older populations as mobility may become more difficult. One piece of technology that can help get elders more engaged in physical activity is the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is a wearable piece of technology that you can do a multitude of tasks with, such as access the internet, reply to messages, and track the distance you have moved that day. The Apple Watch is worn on the user’s wrist and can help with day to day activities

In terms of fitness, the Apple Watch can track heart rate, offer breathing exercises, keep data on nutritional intake, remind you when to drink water, aid in yoga exercises, track walking and running distances, and much more. This is useful to elderly individuals who may be struggling to do these tasks on their own, as well offer motivation to partake in physical activity.

Another thing that could make elderly people more inclined to be physically active is the use of a Wii. A Wii is a videogame consul that many different games can be played on by inserting a disk. Users then play games using a game remote that tracks their movements using a sensor that is mounted in front of a television.

In terms of physical activity, there are games such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit that can engage an individual in fitness activities. This would be useful for elderly adults because there is variability in the intensity of the activities. Since adults age in different ways, it is important to have different levels of impact so that it can apply to all strength levels. This also could be used as a social activity, which is important for elderly people at their age. Wii games are often multiplayer, so playing the Wii can be not only a physical activity but also a social interation activity as well.

A limitation to the Apple Watch is that it is geared towards people who are already more active than the elderly population. A change that would need to be made is to be able to calibrate it so that it reaches a diverse group of populations. Another limitation of this watch is that if there was a medical problem, the watch can notify the wearer but they might not be able to help themselves. For example, if the watch picks up an irregular heartbeat, the watch can notify the elderly individual but they might not be able to receive medical attention. A good change that could be made is a setting on the watch that would notify an emergency contact, such as a family member or neighbor, in case of a medical problem or other problem that may occur when the watch notifies the individual.

A limitation of the Wii is that it may be difficult for elderly populations to navigate its user interface. The use of a Wii involves some advanced technology in terms of the sensor and how it tracks movement, and how you access the games from start to finish. These complexities would have to be explained to this population, or the Wii could be altered to be more easily navigated. The use of a Wii by an elderly adult may also need to be accompanied by an able-bodied adult in order to avoid risks that come with exercising.

This information links back to the studies because it was found that physical activity can help offset things such as sarcopenia and other cognitive deficiencies. Things such as at Apple Watch and Wii can aid in the engagement of physical activates, and therefore can aid in offsetting these aging consequences.

In the study conducted by Abdin, the research indicated that physical activity can offset physical limitations and dementia (2017). The Apple Watch can aid elderly adults in becoming physically active, while monitoring things that can be of concern to them such as their heart rate. If a problem arose concerning the rate of their heart, then the watch can alert them of a concern.

In conclusion, physical activity in adults is usually minimal because of things such as sarcopenia and other age related deficiencies. Technological advances can help elderly individuals become more physically active, and potentially offsetting motor and cognitive problems that can come with aging.

 

References

Abdin, E., Siow Ann, C., Chao Xu, P., Vaingankar, J. A., Boon Yiang, C., Verma, S., & … Subramaniam, M. (2017). The Mediational Role of Physical Activity, Social Contact and Stroke on the Association Between age, Education, Employment and Dementia in an Asian Older Adult Population. BMC Psychiatry, 171-8. doi:10.1186/s12888-017-1272-8

Fragala, M. S., Alley, D. E., Shardell, M. D., Harris, T. B., McLean, R. R., Kiel, D. P., & … Kenny, A. M. (2016). Comparison of handgrip and leg extension strength in predicting slow gait speed in older adults. Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society, 64(1), 144-150. doi:10.1111/jgs.13871

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