By: Dr. Beth Templin
The goal to Age In Place is common among many of the people we work with here at HouseFit. They want to continue living in their current home for as long as possible. It requires staying healthy and active so they can not only take care of themselves but continue to take care of all the day to day activities of managing a house.
A big barrier to achieving this goal is the loss of strength. It requires certain levels of strength to take the trash cans out to the curb, to carry in the groceries, to carry laundry up and down the stairs, to be able to make the bed or get in and out of the tub.
Certain activities like taking care of the yard, mowing the grass, and shoveling the snow can easily be outsourced, but once you start to lose the ability to perform some of the other activities mentioned, you begin to worry about the ability to stay living in your home.
As you age, you naturally begin to lose some of your muscle mass and strength. The process begins in your 30's and accelerates in your 60's and 70's. Even though you may be getting weaker, many of the activities you need to do to carry out your daily life don't get easier or require less strength than before.
A gallon of milk still weighs 8 pounds, a full jug of laundry detergent weighs about 12 pounds and a full laundry basket can weigh up to 16 pounds. Not to mention the strength you need to move that basket of laundry up and down the basement stairs.
When the activities you need to perform in your daily life are near or greater than your maximum strength or ability, it's known as Max Rep Living. I'll explain it further with the laundry example. If you can only lift 15 pounds safely, then you are putting yourself at risk for injuring yourself each time you attempt to lift and carry the laundry which weighs 16 pounds.
So many aging adults are existing on this fine line. They are living on the edge of being able to remain in their own homes. So what can you do to protect yourself? What can you do to ensure that you maintain the ability to care for yourself and your home longer?
The answer is simple. You need to participate in strength training. Some people think it's not safe to strength train in your 70's, 80's and 90's. But I think it's vital to being able to live the life you want. There is plenty of research supporting that you can rebuild muscle strength and that it's safe to participate in strength training on a regular basis even for people 70 and older.
The key to successful strength training is challenging yourself. If you wanted to be able to carry the 16 pounds of laundry up and down the stairs, you should aim for a strength training goal of lifting 20, 30 or even 40 pounds safely.
By achieving that goal, you'd easily be able to carry the laundry up and down the stairs with little to no risk of injury. You'd also have the strength to carry out the rest of your day to day activities, even some of the more challenging ones, like carrying in a bag of dog food, which can weight up to 50 pounds.
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.