By Kathy Gaillard
With the warm weather upon us, there is no hiding. Those socks and boots that sheltered those ‘dirty little secrets,’ have come off and the truth is exposed.
Are your feet healthy? Earning the status of senior citizen entitles you to retire, receive a variety of discounts, and enjoy life, if you so choose! However, aging also has its downfalls and one of them is taking proactive care of your body, including your feet.
Good foot health is especially important for senior citizens. You have a responsibility to yourself and your family to keep your feet healthy so that as you age, you can still participate in and enjoy life’s daily activities. The longer your feet stay healthy, the longer you can maintain an active lifestyle. You may not move as fast as you used to and your body seems to echo aches and pains.
You might get winded performing normal day-to-day activities, while your sense of altered balance leaves you prone to falls and accidents. Individuals over 55 are especially prone to foot disorders that can leave them handicapped if not prevented or treated. Some of these disorders include arthritis, ingrown toenails, fungal nails, diabetic ulcers, and even corns and calluses.
One-third of people in the U.S. who are over 65 have some form of foot pain. Sometimes foot issues develop because of medical issues, such as diabetes. Often however, they are simply our feet’s reaction to years of use, overuse, or abuse.
The average person takes about 10,000 steps a day, and that is a lot of pressure to put on your feet, especially if you are over your proper weight. Standing and walking wear down the padding under your heels over time. Arches fall and lose their flexibility. Your feet change shape, usually getting wider and longer. Along with these changes often come foot pain and stiffness.
Proper foot care can make a difference. To help ensure you keep your feet ‘happy,’ the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) and the Institute for Preventative Foot Health (IPFH) offers the following tips:
Proper Foot Hygiene. Simple daily routines can go a long way when it comes to promoting foot health among senior citizens. Feet should be washed daily, taking special care to wash between the toes. Just as important as daily washing is making sure that the feet are dried thoroughly.
Damp feet in shoes can lead to infections such as fungal toenails and Athlete’s foot. Footwear should also be kept clean and dry. Rotate footwear regularly, and purchase shoes with removable insoles – a feature that makes it easier to thoroughly dry shoes overnight.
Regular Foot Inspections. If left untreated, small cuts and sore spots on the feet can lead to infections that are more serious.
Foot ulcers (open wounds on the feet) are common among senior citizens who fail to notice minor foot injuries early on.
Reduced nervous sensation and circulation in the feet mean that the feet will need to be inspected visually. A family member or friend may need to assist you if there are problems with eyesight or flexibility.
Proper Nail Care. Failure to trim nails properly can lead to ingrown toenails and various infections. Toenails should be cut straight across to prevent the corners of the nail from growing into the skin. File any sharp edges. If a toenail does become ingrown or infected, see a doctor who can care for it properly. This is especially true for senior citizens with diabetes or anyone who is particularly vulnerable to infections on their feet. Discolored or abnormally thick toenails may be a sign of a fungal infection. If discoloration or tenderness persists, see your doctor.
Foot Care for Diabetics. Senior citizens with diabetes must be particularly vigilant when it comes to the care of their feet. Daily foot inspections are crucial, and your doctor should also inspect your feet on a regular basis. Invest in a pair of orthopedic shoes. Avoid going barefoot or soaking your feet in hot water.
Proper Footwear. Supportive footwear is important when it comes to maintaining good foot health. Purchase shoes that protect and support your feet. Orthopedic walking shoes often provide a good combination of comfort and support. Avoid shoes with narrow toes or little arch support. Make sure your shoes fit you properly and can accommodate the socks you usually wear.
Most foot problems respond well to treatment, especially if identified and treated early. If you are experiencing foot pain, check with your doctor or podiatrist. Healthy foot care is not complicated. Listen to your feet and give them the care that they and you deserve, so you can have ‘happy feet.’
By Kathy Gaillard