High Risk Feet: Seniors

In Wellness by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

Feet are not only a remarkably influential part of your body, they are also a good way to gauge a person’s overall health status. Their role as the body’s main vehicle means that healthy feet will impact overall activity levels, independence, and therefore even mental health – three major factors in seniors’ health. This is why maintaining healthy feet during the later years of life is of key importance.


Why Are Feet Not Ageing Nicely?


Unfortunately, the elderly are one of the most likely populations to have foot problems. Part of this is because, just like the rest of the body, feet age and become more frail. As muscle tissue loses strength, some of the foot’s natural flexibility can be lost. In addition, the fatty pads that protect the heel area from impact often spreads or thins out, which leaves it vulnerable to damage.


These reasons would be enough to make foot care for seniors an area of special attention. However, the effect of neglect, excess weight, and – in the case of women – excessive use of high heels also contribute to foot problems.


Foot Pampering Is Not Vanity


Foot care for seniors can be greatly improved by a thorough self-care routine. Soaking feet in warm water with Epsom salts may seem like frivolous pampering, but it’s also a very effective way to prevent circulation problems and diminish swelling – which will help keep feet young and springy for longer. In addition, while expensive pedicures with fashionable styles may not be necessary, frequent nail filing will be vital to prevent ingrown nails and shoe injuries, which are harder to heal among the elderly.


Well-Fitting Shoes Are Not Optional


If fashionable stilettos were a staple in your 20s – although this is still far from ideal – they should be reconsidered later on in life. It is normal for feet to spread and grow bigger after the age of 50, but failing to adapt shoe styles and sizes can result in compressed nails, contact wounds, and precipitate circulation problems. Likewise, as falls become more dangerous for older people, safety should become a priority over fashion.


Senior citizens should ensure their shoes are the right size, and made of comfortable, flexible materials; rubber soles are preferred to avoid falls. It is best to shop for new shoes in the afternoon or evening, as feet will tend to swell slightly during the day. When trying them on, it’s important to ensure there is enough space between the shoe and the tip of the longest toe.


Hygiene Will Be Critical


Seniors need to be especially careful to avoid foot infections, as they will prove much harder to fight than during their younger years. This will be especially critical for those suffering from diabetes, as a foot fungal infection could result in serious injury.


A thorough hygiene routine will help prevent much damage: after a shower, it’s important to take a few extra minutes to ensure feet are completely dry, especially between the toes. Ointments should be used to ensure the skin doesn’t crack, and during the summer, a medicated foot powder will be a strong ally against fungal infections. Regular nail trimming will also help prevent ingrown nails, which often result in infections.


Activity Is the Best Medicine


The best exercise for feet is walking, and a major priority when it comes to foot care for seniors is to prioritize staying mobile. Regular physical activity will directly benefit feet because it will improve circulation, prevent varicose veins, and keep foot muscles well-toned. However, the effect of exercise on overall health should not be underestimated. Because of its effect on weight control, an active lifestyle will benefit all parts on the body, feet included. Exercise and weight management will be powerful tools against diabetes, which are one of the main enemies of foot health among seniors.


Keeping feet healthy and functional can be the deciding factor for a healthy and fulfilling seniority. A thorough feet care routine at home, in addition to regular visits to a podiatrist, will ensure many years of independence during the golden years.