Growing older is a normal part of life, but understanding the ageing process and how it might affect each of us, especially with a spinal cord injury, is essential if we are to enjoy independence for as long as possible.
Disabled people experience the same changes and issues as non-disabled people as they age, but there are certain spinal cord injury-related factors of which to be aware. This should never mean declining wellbeing, though, because we can all lead fulfilling lives with the right support, information and equipment.
How to live well into old age
Keep connections strong
Being part of a local, national or online community of people with shared interests can help you feel valued and supported. Volunteering is another way to make connections and share your lived experience. Find out more about volunteering at SIA here.
As we grow older, it is normal sometimes to need extra support with daily activities, such as getting around and personal care. Our unique needs and equipment requirements can change through the years, and thinking about what may lie ahead puts us in a better position to deal with it while staying independent for as long as possible.
Besides planning for your general needs, having an emergency care plan can ensure you get the best care possible if you have an inpatient hospital stay planned. This document explains your unique requirements to the hospital staff that need to know when you are admitted. Contact our SCI clinical specialist team to find out more about emergency care plans here.
Care planning can feel like a daunting task with a lot to consider, but we can support you through the process. Call our support line on 0800 980 0501 to find out more.
Our metabolisms can slow down with age, and this can affect our ability to manage bowel movements. Accidents can be tough on our self-esteem, but taking care of ourselves with exercise and good nutrition can help address this.
If you need bowel management support, our SCI nurse specialists can help you. Get in touch with them by calling our freephone support line on 0800 980 0501 or sending a message through this page.
Our posture can change over time, so be sure to review the equipment you regularly use to ensure it meets your needs.
Using a wheelchair over several years can shorten the muscles in our hips and legs, but stretching daily based on guidance from your healthcare professional can help. Maintaining a good position, with your ankles, knees and hips well supported, can also prevent pain and pressure ulcers.
Your occupational therapist or physiotherapist can offer advice on posture and help you choose any equipment you might need.
Preventing shoulder injuries
If you rely on your arms to move about, you may experience extra wear and tear on your shoulder joints as you grow older. But there are ways to reduce shoulder strain by considering your technique when performing regular tasks, such as self-propelling or transfers. Positioning your shoulders in line with your wheels will mean using fewer long pushes rather than lots of small pushes.
Also, think about the number of items you carry on your wheelchair and how they are positioned. Maintaining a healthy weight can help too.
Getting physical with shoulder exercises can strengthen your muscles and prevent injury. Watch a video of some things you can try.
If you still have questions about ageing with a spinal cord injury or need support, book a call with one of our support coordinators or SCI nurse specialists here.