Age has its impact on the human body. With minimal exercise, a poor Western Diet, and beliefs that age slows us down, we struggle to function as we age. One easy way to stay ahead of age-related changes is through an comprehensive exercise program designed by a physical therapist.
Balance drills, resistance training, and education is the mainstay for PT and aging adults. Despite these efforts we are still missing the mark amd adults continue to age and struggle with functioning. Study after study show we need to train power, especially functional power based movements. As such, I implement the use of an old sports training tool: the agility ladder.
The agility ladder pushes older adults to work on quick stepping, patterns, and change of direction. The ladder offers similar stepping that a person may have in a parking lot (stepping over curb quickly), a tight closet (side stepping), or walking through a crowd (weaving and shuffling). Assigning pattern helps with memory development and parallel processing. Enhance the parallel processing with upper extremity manipulation or verbal questions.
Immediately, many physical therapist may be worried about "safety". For too long have we underdosed and not pushed our older adult clients. The Agility Ladder can easily be done with close one-on-one spotting and/or a gait belt. Ladder drills may be more time consuming and require closer supervision, which may be difficult in a very busy insurance based Physical Therapy practices. Regardless, I have seen the benefits outweigh the risks, and my clients have commented on how well they can move after using this intervention over many sessions. So, give it a try: go out and explorer agility ladders with your older adult clients!