Natural Ageing & Road Safety

Co-ordination, Balance, Agility & Reactions

As senior life starts between ages 60 and 70, so does ’the natural ageing process’. In simple terms our body’s limbs and organs start to slow down and become less efficient, and the body’s ability to repair itself becomes more difficult and recovery may not be complete; additionally there is the likelihood of medical conditions developing and medication.

Changes are often gradual and can go undetected for months, or longer. At age 70 our reactions are some 22% slower than younger counterparts; this increases with age.

Seniors are at greater risk of accidents be it at home or on the roads as drivers or pedestrians. The risk of a road incident on average is between 4 and 8 times more than younger people, with the risk of fatality, or life changing injuries being up to 10 times greater. Major factors in this increased risk are poor reaction times together with diminished co-ordination and agility, and impaired eyesight and hearing.

Three key elements of well being are:

  1. A healthy balanced diet.
  2. A lifestyle with elements of social interaction, by way of group activities or hobbies.
  3. Gentle regular exercise.

Quite simply it is a case of ‘use it, or lose it’! It is widely accepted as essential that Seniors ‘keep moving’ and avoid the excesses of the sedentary life.

Eye, hand and foot co-ordination are critical to our safely going about everyday tasks, with a paramount need to keep using all our functional parts so they literally don’t forget how to function efficiently. With age this functionality becomes compromised to varying degrees through diminishing use. Our bodies are not unlike machines which in time will grind to a halt if not maintained, lubricated and used. As a driver or pedestrian, our eyes are key to co-ordination; as drivers we may need to turn our head to 90 degrees, hold the steering with our right hand, change gear with our left, brake with right foot, and use the clutch with the left, alongside other distractions from within the car, like a sat. nav. It is essential for everybody’s well-being that we all stay ‘on top’ of our game when it comes to road safety and there are things we can do to help.

Gentle exercise benefits our bodies hugely. However, many types of exercise known as thin mat and hard floor are not accessible for all. In fact, many heavy impact exercises involving vigorous stepping or dancing, may aggravate existing conditions, and not assist all joints equally. The same could be said of walking and other similar general types of exercise. Ideally exercise needs to benefit ALL muscle groups. In driving we need to see clearly, and react quickly to messages sent from our brain to our hands and feet, in order complete the necessary actions safely. Actions that are sluggish result in slips, trips, and falls – or a car crash.

There are a number of exercise regimes that address the needs of ALL muscle groups, and are designed around ‘co-ordination and reaction’. ‘Senior Elastixs’ is one form of all round beneficial exercise I can recommend as I partake in a class once a week. Senior Elastixs is easy and fun to do, normally to background music and should not be confused with hard stressful gym workouts. The exercises are about gentle all-over stretching, flexibility, and general mobilisation under the guidance of a qualified instructor.

A case study:-

“I am a 74-year-old male. Overall I am fit and healthy, I play bowls, and work as a community volunteer, which includes 24/7 emergency call outs. As a highly experienced driver I came across an exercise format called Senior Elastixs. Over a three-month period, in a 1-hour weekly group session, with an experienced instructor, I have found, along with others in the group, including my partner, that tightness in certain muscles have eased. Also my general co-ordination has improved week on week, with my powers of concentration becoming enhanced, all of which are hugely important. I have no doubts that this exercise will significantly help to maintain and prolong my independence and mobility as I age further and no doubt it will improve my safety as well.”