Naturally, as you get older, parts of your body start to deteriorate with certain tasks or movements gradually becoming more difficult. Although ageing is a part of life and is going to happen regardless, there are certainly preventative measures and acts of care that can be taken to ensure you remain as mobile and active for as long as possible. An important factor of mobility is footcare. After all, your feet carry the weight of your body and have multiple pressures placed on them daily. Skipping foot care from your daily routine could result in foot pain, the onset of foot conditions and reduced mobility. You may be particularly susceptible to these things if you have diabetes, arthritis or any other condition or illness that affects joints or blood circulation. Your feet also affect your balance and could increase the risk of falls if not properly looked after. Prioritising footcare will allow you to continue going about your daily activities and enjoying what life has to offer as you get older, from walks in the park and shopping to days out and travel.
Common foot problems
Foot problems are likely to occur in anyone if foot care is neglected. However, changes in the body that come with ageing means that an estimated 80% of older people experience foot problems. With age, skin loses its elasticity and generally becomes more dry meaning feet are prone to cracking. Nails can also thicken and become harder to cut, increasing the risk of ingrown toenails which can be extremely painful causing redness, swelling and potential infection if left untreated. Foot width and length changes as you get older and inflammation is more common alongside other issues such as toes crossing over or bunions developing. These can cause sores from parts of the feet rubbing against each other or not adjusting shoe size or type with your changing feet. Whilst all these issues are fairly minor initially, if not seen to, they can develop into more serious problems causing further discomfort and therefore reducing mobility.
How to care for your feet
Whilst regular pedicures and visits to the podiatrist are great, they may not be within everyone’s reach and there are plenty of steps that can be taken from home to ensure your feet remain in good health.
Wear the right shoes
Wearing the right footwear is essential for supporting feet and providing comfort. Ill-fitting shoes can not only cause rubbing and discomfort but loose material can increase the risk of falls as they do not provide a supportive barrier around your feet. Shoes should be comfortable, breathable and supportive around the entire foot and lower ankle. Trainers or soft leather are a great option to fulfil these requirements. A good grippy sole is also extremely important to avoid slipping and being prone to injury. With certain foot conditions, shoes may require orthopedic insoles to provide additional support and comfort where necessary.
TIP: Avoid wearing strappy sandals or high heels too often as these types of shoes do not offer much support or stability.
Maintain good hygiene
Increased moisture can lead to fungal infections, therefore, it is important to keep your feet as clean and dry as possible. Foot care should be part of your daily personal hygiene routine and filing and moisturising after showering will help keep your feet in good condition, preventing calluses and corns from developing.
Keep toenails short
It may seem like a simple task that can be easily maintained by the average person, however, nail cutting can be a real struggle for older people. Reaching down to your feet isn’t an easy task when experiencing stiff joints or reduced mobility so this can end up being neglected resulting in painful ingrown toenails or cuts and sores that can then get infected. To avoid this, toenails will need to be kept fairly short and cut and filed regularly, depending on individual growth. It may be worth asking a family member to help if you are struggling. Alternatively, Age UK offers general foot care services as well as specific toenail cutting services for those in need of help with this task.
Staying active is essential for maintaining a positive mental and physical health. Being overweight can seriously affect your joints, especially in your lower body. Additional pressure on your knees, ankles and feet can lead to further problems or conditions that could cause lasting damage. Regular exercise, even if it is just a short walk each day, and a balanced diet will contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. Getting outside and being active also provides social opportunities which is especially important during retirement. Alongside regular exercise, focused foot exercises and stretches will encourage blood flow to the area and help relieve any aches and pains.
Following these simple steps and maintaining a thorough foot care routine will help keep you as mobile as possible in older age. If you don’t feel like you can keep on top of these routines yourself or don’t have family nearby to help, there are services available to help. Community nurses or charities such as Age UK, often help provide care in this area for older people. Residential and care homes will likely make foot care a priority in the daily/weekly routine of their residents so this should be taken care of and can be requested if you are concerned about a family member.
If your mobility continues to be an issue, there could be something else going on. Always seek advice from your GP first and remember to listen to your body and take a rest when needed. A walking aid such as a stick, walker or portable folding wheelchair that doubles as a handy travel case may also provide a solution, offering respite from walking when out and about and removing the need for additional bags.
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