Our Aging Feet
Aging Feet and Your Health
The medical field has progressed so rapidly since 1900 that life expectancy of the average person has increased by about 27 years. Mature individuals have become an increasingly significant proportion of our total population and their numbers are growing rapidly. The number of seniors with aging feet has more than doubled in Canada in the past 25 years. In 1996, seniors accounted for more than 12% of the population.
If mature people are to live productive, satisfying lives, they must be able to move about. Mobility is a vital ingredient of the independence that older people cherish, and foot ailments make it difficult or impossible for them to work or to participate in social activities and exercise.
There are more than 300 different ailments. Some can be traced to heredity, but for seniors, most of them stem from the cumulative impact of years of neglect or abuse. However, even among people in their retirement years, many foot problems can be treated successfully, and the pain of foot ailments relieved.
While mild foot problems can cause discomfort, if left untreated, may lead to chronic and/or debilitating conditions.
Mirror of Health
The human foot has been called the mirror of health. Chiropodists are often the first specialists to see signs of such systemic conditions as diabetes, arthritis and circulatory disease in the foot. Among these signs are dry skin, brittle nails, burning and tingling sensations, feelings of cold, numbness, and discolouration. Always seek professional care when these signs appear.
Changes of the Foot
Whether neglect or abuse is present, the normal wear and tear of the years cause changes in feet. As we age, our feet tend to spread and lose the fatty pads that cushion the bottom of the feet. Additional weight can affect the bone and ligament structure. Mature people consequently should have their feet measured for shoe sizes more frequently, rather than presuming that their shoe sizes remain constant.
Aging of our bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons can cause fallen arches, and contribute to sore feet. An increase in corns, and calluses, as well as plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, can occur.
Bunions and hammer toes may be at their worst and most painful.
Dry skin and brittle nails are other conditions older people commonly face. For reasons that are difficult to fathom, many people, including a lot of older people, believe that it is normal for the feet to hurt, and simply resign themselves to enduring foot problems which could be treated.
Observing preventative foot health care has many benefits. Chief among them is that it can increase comfort, limit the possibility of additional medical problems, reduce the chances of hospitalization because of infection, and lessen requirements for other institutional care.
Keep them Walking
Studies show that care for a bedridden patient costs much more than care for an ambulatory patient. In their private practices and in foot clinics, chiropodists are providing services designed to keep older people on their feet, and they serve in hospitals and nursing homes across the country.
Records indicate that amputations and other forms of surgery due to infections of the feet, many brought about by diabetes, have been significantly reduced in recent years because of early diagnosis and treatment.
Foot Health Tips
- Properly fitted shoes are essential; an astonishing number of people wear shoes that don't fit right and cause serious foot problems
- A shoe with a firm sole and soft upper is best for daily activities
- Walking is the best exercise for your feet
- Pantyhose or stockings should be of the correct size and preferably free of seams
- Except at the beach, avoid going barefoot, even in your home
- Do not wear constricting garters or tie your stockings in knots
- Never cut corns and calluses with a razor pocket knife or other such instruments; use over-the-counter foot products only with the advice of a chiropodist
- Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm (not hot) water, using a mild soap, preferably one containing moisturizers, or use a moisturizer separately
- Trim or file your toenails straight across
- Inspect your feet every day or have someone do this for you. If you notice any redness, swelling, cracks in the skin, or sores, consult your chiropodist
- Have your feet examined by a chiropodist at least twice a year
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