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Things we do and things we should do

What can motivate an older person to remain active, and what we could do to help.

Photo of Rodney Lobo
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David T. Leung (75) has been married to Yuet Ngor Leung (68) for 46 years. I met them at the Weinberg Center for Balanced Living, a couple of weeks ago.

About 5 years ago, David had an accident. His right shoulder was dislocated; he had to be taken to emergency room. After being discharged from the hospital, he still had pain in his shoulder. No assistive device or physical therapy was prescribed to him. He began taking advil to relieve  himself of the pain. He then took an initiative, and began exercising to remain active and injury free. Now-a-days, he volunteers at the center. He is able to push service carts and help the center in anyway he can.

One day, while Yuet was walking on a sidewalk by the streets of Manhattan, she slipped and fell down. Unfortunately, no one came to help her at that time. She felt helpless as people walked around her, ignoring her. Eventually she stood up, and luckily, she only had minor bruises around her arm. When I asked whether she was willing to use any mobility device to help her walk, she said that she would rather not use any device now. However, she will use it if she doesn’t have a choice.

Stories such as David's and Yuet's are heartrending, and are a constant reminder why most older adults prefer remaining independent rather than relying on someone. However, with a little motivation and encouragement, they can help themselves to remain active and avoid falls.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

When seniors fall, they do not have an assurance that someone might help them get back on their feet. So, they would rather not ask for help. But if we can encourage them to remain active, and provide the relevant resources, they will have a better chance of not falling down.

Tell us about your work experience:

Student of New York University (Industrial Engineering), passionate about Human Centered Design, Design for America of NYU member; working with a team to build a new assistive device for the elderly.

4 comments

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Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Rodney,

Thank you for another great post. Why do you think the people did not stop to help Yuet? What sort of exercises is David doing? Are they general exercises to keep fit and in shape or exercises to improve muscle strength?

Do you think something like Wake up, hike out, tune in, move it: Learning from Japanese Radio exercise would interest David and Yuet?

Photo of Rodney Lobo

In a fast paced city like New York City, people can become so busy that they tend to ignore the surroundings. But that is still not an excuse to not help someone who has fallen down. Another reason could be that they might be held responsible if something terrible happens to the person who is in need of help. Of course, these are speculations, the real reason might be something different altogether.

I will visit the Weinberg center within the next couple of weeks to get more information on the kind of exercise. But I remember David mentioning stretching exercises.
There is a gym in the center, he probably uses it as well, but I will confirm that soon.

I read the post on radio exercise, and checked the video. I know that there are many exercises at the senior center, and I am sure sure a lot of seniors participate in them (zumba, ribbon dance, yoga and pilates)
I will get the information soon and update the post :)

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Rodney for this great story. A few things came up to my mind:
1. both David and Yuet when they fell hurt their arm and not a leg. I think we often tend to associate falls and mobility with locomotion.
2. education might also be about other people helping each other, giving a hand to help someone goes back on their feet
3. the importance of remaining active to regain full mobility (of a leg or arm).
4. the social and emotional component: this is the story of a couple who had lived together for a long time and this, I'm sure, also motivate them in being active and independent.
Thanks again!

Photo of Rodney Lobo

Yes, for some reason, we think that falling means something bad happens to our legs, but in reality, any part of the body can get hurt. I personally think physical exercise is one of the key contributions to keeping balance.

I am visiting the center again within a couple of weeks to talk to them :)