Europe is aging. In the EU, people aged over 55 already make up 33% of the population. By 2050, we can expect to see 30 million of people aged over 85 and up to half a million of centenarians.
This development has profound implications for healthcare and rehabilitation. More senior citizens means more people with cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and neurological conditions that need lengthy rehabilitation.
Physical therapy for elderly persons is more than just alleviating pain and restoring correct movement patterns. It’s about improving and maintaining the quality of life, helping the patient lead a dignified, independent life for as long as possible.
For patients, it can be frustrating when they are unable to cook their own food, brush their teeth, get dressed without help or even get in and out of bed, let alone play with their grandkids. This lack of personal autonomy is a major factor in developing depression which only exacerbates age-related health problems.
Well-planned and well-executed physiotherapy, however, can support physical and mental health well into old age.
Types of physical therapy for seniors
Here are the four main types of physical therapy where senior citizens form the majority of patients.
Geriatric physical therapy
As the name suggests, geriatric physical therapy deals with age-related diseases and conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and balance disorders. Its main goals are restoring joint mobility, reducing pain, rebuilding strength and preventing fall-related accidents.
Orthopaedic physical therapy
Orthopaedic physiotherapists focus on traumatic injuries and conditions of the musculoskeletal system (muscles, tendons, ligaments etc.). While these can happen in people of all ages, senior citizens are especially prone to them.
All people (even athletes) lose some strength and muscle mass as they age, but this loss can be slowed down with customized exercise programs prescribed by a physiotherapist.
Cardiopulmonary physical therapy
Cardiopulmonary physical therapy helps people recover from lung diseases and heart attacks. Once again, heart attacks mostly happen in older people.
Cardiopulmonary physiotherapy focuses on rebuilding strength and stamina with gentle physical exercise. Recovery can take months, but sticking to the prescribed exercise program can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life and prevent further heart attacks.
Neurological physical therapy
This type of physical therapy helps people recover from brain injuries, but it also specifically helps older people manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and other age-related disorders of the nervous system.
Exercise plays a major role in all types of physical therapy. It develops strength and mobility, improves blood circulation, and helps relearn movement patterns after a stroke or a major injury. This is why most rehabilitation programs include a customized exercise program that should be done at home.
We at Raccoon.Recovery know that physiotherapy exercises are rarely exciting. This is why we’ve decided to gamify them.
Does gamification work for seniors?
As we mentioned before, the loss of autonomy caused by pain and movement limitations can be frustrating. But this is where gamification can help: playing games and unlocking achievements creates a feeling of success and helps patients feel more in control of their situation.
But does gamification work for older patients? Aren’t video games something that only young people are interested in?
Scientists from Ontario University have shown that gamification can increase the motivation, engagement and enjoyment of adults aged over 50. Even patients aged 85+ are in fact quite fond of video games and respond well to gamified treatments.
How do seniors respond to telerehabilitation?
In-home physical therapy has been around for a while and it’s especially useful for patients who are not mobile enough to travel to the therapist’s office. Now, when most elderly patients are self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic, telerehabilitation has become the only option for many.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, elderly patients respond well to telerehab. They may feel reluctant at first, but once they’ve tried remote physiotherapy, they begin to appreciate its benefits. This has been proven by academic studies and our own experience alike.
Remote physiotherapy allows seniors to regain strength and mobility without having to leave their homes and commute to the therapist’s office. They can do the exercises whenever they have the time and energy for them. And should they forget how to do a specific exercise, they can always access instructional videos – this is especially important with patients whose memory isn’t as good as it was.
Thanks to automation, digitized examination and remote monitoring of Raccoon.Recovery, physiotherapists save time that results in up to 150% revenue increase.
Thanks to Raccon.Recovery you can create a completely remote rehabilitation plan and monitor your patient’s progress with great precision. Our rehab software comes with wearable sensors that are put on the affected part of the body. These sensors track the patient’s movements so that both you and the patient know exactly which exercises were done, how many reps the patient did, and how much time was spent exercising. If sensors are unavailable, you can use Raccoon.Recovery Light – a product modification that lets the patient’s own smartphone be used instead of the sensor.
Raccoon.Recovery is an all-round solution that includes remote consultations, customizable treatment plans, exercise videos, progress tracking, and a bunch of fun and motivating video games that are played using the sensors as game controllers.
Physiotherapy is not only about reducing pain and restoring movement range. It also aims to improve the quality of life with disabilities or other health conditions. When treating older patients, it’s important to help them stay independent and in control of their bodies as much as possible. Rehab software that offers gamified treatments helps patients experience small but regular successes which build motivation and help regain control over their lives.
In addition, Raccoon.Recovery comes with detailed exercise videos that are available 24/7. Should a patient forget how to do a specific exercise, they can always watch the video again. This is particularly useful when treating patients with memory issues.