Today we bring you an entry created by our colleagues at Eraberri Fisioterapia, by Xabier García Rebollo, COO and physiotherapist, expert in the aging process. Eraberri’s mission is to promote healthy aging in order to provide a better quality of life, autonomy and independence to people, enhancing their physical, psychological and social capabilities.
In this publication we will discuss how telephysiotherapy can promote healthy aging, and the effectiveness of using digital exercise tools to achieve our goals.
Aging is a dynamic and very heterogeneous process associated with the life cycle and accompanied by various biopsychosocial changes. In terms of health, the increase in life expectancy due to the improved quality of life brought about by social progress and better health care, as well as the decrease in the birth rate, have led to a marked aging of the Western population in recent decades.
According to WHO data, the world population over 60 years of age is expected to double between 2000 and 2050. Closer data indicate that in Spain and in the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC) the population over 65 years of age has increased by 3% in the last decade. The latest data provided by the INE and EUSTAT, indicated that this population constituted 19.58% at the national level and 22.24% in the BAC in 2020. If we also take into account that the largest population is concentrated in the 40-60 age bracket, it is likely that the number of elderly people will increase in the near future.
A very important fact that is currently of great concern is that the increase in life expectancy is not always related to healthy aging, On the contrary, on many occasions, the presence of external factors such as polymedication or unhealthy lifestyle habits generate a higher risk of suffering from chronic pathologies, neurodegenerative diseases, fragility, disability and dependence, increasing the risk of falling, which can trigger a fracture, hospitalization, institutionalization, greater comorbidity and mortality and generate a greater demand for social and health care resources to guarantee the essential care that generates a dignified quality of life.
Fortunately, as a result of the concern related to this context, we are beginning to study and try to promote a healthy aging model to satisfactorily address this situation. Today, we are able to detect, diagnose and address in a quality way several conditions such as frailty, risk of falling, sarcopenia…
To give a more concrete example, frailty is a syndrome that often precedes functional disability and dependence of the individual. It is a clinically recognizable condition characterized by reduced functional reserve and impaired adaptive capacity across multiple physiological systems. Frailty is strongly associated with other geriatric syndromes such as instability and falls, cognitive impairment, urinary incontinence….
Fortunately, frailty is a detectable condition and has even been recognized in numerous studies as a reversible state. In this way we can reduce the risk and consequences of falls, improve the functional capacity, autonomy, independence and quality of life of older adults, facilitating a fuller and more functional life for as long as possible.
One of the easiest, most accessible and economical strategies to curb and reverse this situation is physical exercise. Scientific evidence recommends specific functional rehabilitation programs based on multicomponent physical exercise, which combine strength, endurance, balance, joint mobility and flexibility training, highlighting the importance of strength and balance training in the face of the risk of frailty and falls.
Where am I going with all this?
What is the reason that most exercise programs with older adults do not work? Lack of adherence to them.
There are many reasons for this lack of adherence, and there will certainly be people who do not fit the solution we are proposing today. Even so, as a clinician who works with frail elderly people in their homes, I can say that this profile of fragile person tends to want to be at home, they look for comfort, most of the time, they feel little attracted to changes and new situations that can generate stress. This situation is aggravated by the pandemic, which is compounded by the fear of leaving home for any activity.
In this context, telephysiotherapy or telerehabilitation is a very promising option to resort to at present, and can be of great help due to the multiple benefits and facilities associated with it.
Nowadays there are numerous tools such as TRAK, which in an easy, accessible and fast way can be used to prescribe our exercise programs telematically, achieving adhesions of up to 70%. By means of state-of-the-art technology allows us to perform assessments and tests remotely and we can make sure that the person is doing the prescribed exercises correctly. At the same time, we can monitor the progress of our user, offering the possibility to communicate with him/her from the same platform.
We should not fall into prejudices and think that the elderly will not know how to use this type of technology, since in the studies that have been carried out so far with TRAK, this population group has been the one that has obtained the best results in terms of adherence.
In conclusion, we believe that telephysiotherapy is a very useful and necessary resource to address various pathological conditions currently related to aging, this could be a great help to promote a model of healthy and quality aging in a greater number of users.