Source: California Podiatric Medical Association (www.podiatrists.org)
According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, impairments of the lower extremities is a leading cause of activity limitation in older people. Foot problems can also lead to knee, hip, and lower back pain that undermines mobility. The NCHS says one-fourth of all nursing home patients cannot walk at all and another one-sixth can walk only with assistance.
There are more than 300 different foot ailments. Some can be traced to heredity, but for an aging population, most of these ailments stem from the cumulative effect of years of neglect or abuse. However, even among people in their retirement years, many foot problems can be treated successfully, and the pain of foot ailments relieved.
Whether due to neglect or abuse, the normal wear and tear of the years causes changes in feet. As persons age, their feet tend to spread, and lose the fatty pads that cushion the bottom of the feet. Additional weight can affect the bone and ligament structure. Older people, consequently, should have their feet measured for shoe sizes more frequently, rather than presuming that their shoe sizes remain constant. Dry skin and brittle nails are other conditions older people commonly face. Finally, it's a fact that women, young and old, have four times as many foot problems as men, and high heels are often the culprits.
Observing preventive foot health care has many benefits. Chief among them are that it can increase comfort, limit the possibility of additional medical problems, reduce the chances of hospitalization because of infection, and lessen requirements for other institutional care.