Most independent elderly Americans enjoy active, busy lifestyles. But over 32 million seniors also live with osteoarthritis, a degenerative “wear-and-tear” joint disease that may come about due to the aging process. Osteoarthritis can cause joint pain, stiffness and swelling, and for some its effects can be debilitating. Eventually osteoarthritis symptoms can get so bad that they interfere with a senior’s mobility and activities of daily living (ADLs). If you are currently looking after aging loved one who’s dealing with osteoarthritis, here’s how to help them enjoy a higher quality of life. 

Osteoarthritis Facts and Figures 

As the most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that primarily targets the hips, knees and hands. With OA, the cartilage within a joint begins to break down as the supporting structures- like bone- begin to change. Those physiological changes typically develop slowly and then grow progressively worse over time.

Risk factors for primary or secondary osteoarthritis include:

  • Age
  • Joint injury or overuse
  • Gender- women are more likely to develop OA than men
  • Genetics
  • Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Race- Some Asian populations have a lower risk for OA
  • Inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis 

These are the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis:

  • Joint pain or tenderness
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion
  • Joint instability
  • Inflammation or enlargement of joints
  • Joint deformity or malalignment
  • Crepitus (cracking, grinding or popping)

In addition to looking for the telltale signs of osteoporosis, a doctor may order X-rays and fluid samples from the affected joint(s) before making a definitive diagnosis.

Osteoarthritis Management Tips for Seniors 

For most seniors dealing with osteoarthritis, living a healthier, more active lifestyle is possible by following these guidelines:

Exercise regularly 

If otherwise healthy enough to do so, encourage your senior to participate in low-impact forms of exercise like Yoga, walking on level surfaces, swimming or water aerobics. Exercising for at least 20 minutes 3 to 5X per week will help reduce joint stiffness, improve range of motion and strengthen muscles that support arthritic joints.

In general, regular exercise is also a great stress reducer and sleep inducer. It’s also an effective way to boost cardiovascular endurance and normalize blood sugar levels.