Friday, October 14, 2016

"Mobility Is Much More Than Just Getting Around"

While we may tend to think of mobility in terms of how someone gets around - walking or with mobility assistance such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair, it is much more than that. Certainly, getting around is a large part of it, but there are several other aspects of the mobility equation.

For those who are ambulatory, walking, climbing stairs or steps, running or jogging, standing in place, sitting, bending, squatting are parts of normal mobility. For anyone - using mobility assistance or not - maneuvering in a somewhat tight space space such as might be found in an entryway, hallway, kitchen, laundry room, walk-in closet, or bathroom - depending on the size of the home and those particular rooms or areas - is an important mobility activity.

Mobility also encompasses how people use items in their home with their hands, feet, arms, and legs. This means such activities as turning on light switches and other wall controls, adjusting the thermostat, turning on faucets in the kitchen and bath, showering or bathing (to the extent they can do this themselves), moving from room-to-room, opening closet doors, accessing and opening cabinet drawer and doors, using the washer and dryer and other appliances, and more. It also means positioning oneself - standing or with assistance - to be in front of those control, doors, or appliances in order to use them as intended. 

Mobility involves every joint in the body and how they are used. This means toes, ankles, knees, hips, spine and neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Picking up items, reaching for them, lifting, grasping and holding onto something, making a fist, turning our heads to look at something, pivoting our upper bodies at the waist, and even more actions are all part of mobility.

Equilibrium, as in maintaining one's balance while standing, walking, bending, standing, or sitting, is part of mobility. Items in the home that may affect someone's balance are plush rugs and carpeting that sink or depress when stepped or rolled upon - different than adjacent hard surface flooring. Clutter and walking over, through, or around papers, boxes, clothing, and other items stacked or strewn about also affect mobility and balance.

Mobility is so much more than entering a home, moving around in that space, going from room-to-room, and having freedom of movement in the home - regardless of whether assistance is needed or not. Common tasks such as lifting, sitting, standing (for those who are able), opening foodstuffs (boxes, cans, bottles, and jars), combing our hair, brushing our teeth, and so many other things we routinely do are all dependent on moving our joints to provide mobility for us.

Thus, in planning for mobility - in general as well as for specific clients - we need to keep in mind home people use their homes and allow the greatest, unencumbered movements within the living space. We need to ensure that such movements are done in the safest of conditions as possible also. Moving about is a large part of mobility, but so are so many other activities that are done often throughout the day by anyone living in or even visiting that home.
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Steve HoffackerCAPS, C.E.A.C., MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.