The Joint Ventures' Blog

Age Strong

Thursday, June 28, 2018

We have mentioned in previous posts how words matter a lot, and the language we use shapes the reality of our bodies and health. This is no different than the narrative that is commonly spoken in our society about aging. Statements like, “I am just getting old” and, “it’s due to old age” are so frequently used that most people don’t even realize they are saying it. The phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, has become a part of our vernacular to excuse someone’s habits and behavior patterns without any hope to change. 

Negative stereotypes about older people have been shown to have a negative influence on their mental and physical health. Research (1) has demonstrated a clear, direct threat to the cognition of older adults when the individuals believe in the truth of these negative stereotypes. For example, the will to live is decreased, memory is impaired, and the individual is less interested in engaging in healthy preventive behaviors. Negative age stereotypes also have significant negative effects on the physical well-being of older individuals. Recovery is impaired, cardiovascular reactivity to stress is increased, and longevity has been shown to decrease.

In 2014, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) released an initiative called “Choosing Wisely” (2), in which they asked patients and physical therapists to reflect upon five common procedures which included the treatment of the older adult. It stated, “Don’t prescribe under-dosed strength training programs for older adults. Instead, match the frequency, intensity and duration of exercise to the individual’s abilities and goals”. Our profession recognized that as physical therapists, we were also contributing to the negative stereotypes by treating older adults as fragile human beings. The APTA called upon us to re-evaluate our approach and assess the human being in front of us and challenge them appropriately.


The human body adapts to the appropriate dosage of stress and the older adult is no different. However, the rate of adaptation may occur at a different rate. I have witnessed this firsthand throughout my career treating older adults who are able to adapt to stress on their bodies, as long as they are equipped with the right mindset and motivation.

Our role as physical therapists is to help cultivate and sharpen that mindset with education and exercise as our medicine. With a detailed assessment of your exercise capacity and goals, we can use functional exercises like squats, rows, deadlifts, push-ups and carrying to gradually increase your tolerance to daily activities and help you find your strength.

If you have questions or would like more information, you can call our office at 617-536-1161 or email me, Keith Foley, at Keith.Foley@JointVenturesPT.com

1 -Nelson, T. D. (2016). Promoting healthy aging by confronting ageism. American Psychologist, 71(4), 276-282

2-http://www.choosingwisely.org/societies/american-physical-therapy-association/

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