Older people take longer to heal. Now that’s not a news flash to most of you. The more interesting fact is that the older you are, the less you tolerate inactivity. I turned 71 in March, and I can vouch for this fact. Having been relatively inactive, sports wise, for several years I recently participated in a bicycle ride, and barely made it 55Km. I “trained” for the event for about 6 weeks beforehand, but obviously not enough, and not long enough. In my callow youth, I could have trained for the ride that much and done it easily.
The same goes for many of the patients I have seen in the clinic. When the person is relatively young, or really young, there is hardly any recovery time between healing and full participation. If the person is over 65, with very few exceptions the recovery time is greatly extended. Recovery time is how long it takes until the person is fit to return to full participation in the activities enjoyed prior to injury or illness. Teenagers are nearly bullet proof, and older folks must avoid sitting down too long or they may never get back up. A week in bed will need at least a month of recovery for people over 65, while a teenager can spend a week in bed and jump up and play a full half of rugby. Maybe they shouldn’t, but I have seen my 16 year old son do it.
So, if you are unfortunate enough to need hospitalization, or are confined to home for a period of time, and forced into inactivity, remember the formula, a week begets a month’s recovery. If you are asked to get up and moving quickly, and you are over 65, it is not because the person doing the asking does not respect elders, it is because the person cares deeply for elders, enough to suffer the slings and arrows resulting from asking for activity when all you really want to do is go back to sleep.
These comments are general in nature. Be sure to check with your physio or doctor if you are not sure whether they apply to your situation.
Dave Rohe is a recently retired physio having practiced in New Zealand since 2004. He originally qualified in the USA, subsequently practicing in Malawi, Egypt and Cambodia prior to emigrating to New Zealand in 2003. He has enjoyed management positions in pediatric and adult outpatient facilities as well as taught physiotherapy for 15 years at the University of Georgia. He is currently living in Parakai with his wife, Sharon Robinson, a local midwife, near his adult children who are working, and one of whom is studying to qualify as a physio through the programme at the University of Otago. His articles previously appeared in local newspapers in Taranaki and on the blog site sponsored by NZSPT.