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“Healthy aging” and “aging well” are used quite often, but people outside the aging services or health care sectors rarely understand the full meaning of these phrases. October is National Physical Therapy Month and a wonderful chance to remind the public of the value of physical therapy in supporting the health and independence of America’s older adults.

How does physical therapy reduce injuries for older adults?

In the past, physical therapy was perceived as a reactionary profession; most people believe physical therapists (PTs) only work with people after they were injured. This misconception overlooks much of the value physical therapists offer the older adult community to keep them safe and independent. PTs are changing their profession to include treatment of injury and education on preventive strategies that reduce injuries altogether.

Physical therapists are highly trained health care professionals, with an expertise in movement and exercise. Their skills and knowledge base are essential when dealing with the complexities of aging. Physical therapy training includes assessment, exercise prescription, and progression, all with appropriate monitoring. All these skills can be utilized for older adults before injury happens. And if used more in this way, physical therapists can play a key role in the prevention of injury, functional decline, and disability.

Fitness at any age is made up of five key aspects

  • flexibility
  • strength
  • endurance
  • posture
  • balance

Extensive studies have provided norms for each of these categories. By using these guidelines to determine what is normal for older adults of similar age and gender physical therapists can explain how a patient’s circumstances compare with their peers’.

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