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Elderly people walking dogs may run risk of injuries



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By Aashish Mishra

Kathmandu, June 3: Many senior citizens prefer to embrace an active lifestyle. Yoga, jogging and morning walks are some of the common exercises that the elderly adults do. Many elderly also prefer to walk their dogs as a means to get out of the house and stretch their limbs.
Kiran Subba is 72 years old and takes his two dogs out for walks twice a day, every day. Living in Sanepa, Lalitpur, his dogs run and play around his community and he runs with them, holding their leash. “It’s a great way to work up a sweat,” he said, claiming that his dogs also provided him company. “Running with them is fun in contrast to running alone which would be boring.”
Many scientific studies have proven that walking their canines can be good for seniors’ physical and mental health. But at times, this can also become unhealthy, leading to fractures, injuries or even worse.
Tara Ganga Subedi knows this all too well. The 63-year-old resident of Samakhusi, Kathmandu, got her left arm broken last year when her dog pulled her, causing her to fall on the ground.
“She (her dog) saw another dog and started chasing it, dragging me with her. That made me lose my footing and I fell,” Subedi described the incident. The fall was so horrific that she still can’t move her arm all the way up. Famed poet and lyricist Ratna Sumsher Thapa who passed away on Thursday at the age of 83 had also initially been injured a few months ago while walking his dog, as informed by a source close to the family.
Dr Rohit Kumar Pokharel, professor at the Department of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery (Spine Surgery Unit) at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Maharajgunj, Kathmandu, also believed that elderly individuals were more prone to fractures and bone injuries during physical activities like walking the dogs because of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by low bone mass and loss of bone tissue that may lead to weak and fragile bones and mainly affects post-menopausal women and men above the age of 65. “The hips and spine are the most vulnerable and most fractures and injuries in the elderly occur there,” Dr Pokharel informed.
Dr Dibasha Adhikari, medical officer at Patan Hospital, said that women were more susceptible to sustaining such injuries than men. “Oestrogen levels fall after menopause and this, along with other age-related changes in hormone levels and endocrine functions, makes osteoporosis a particularly acute disease for women,” she explained.
Subba’s advice to people is to let go of their pets’ leashes if they can’t control them.
“Don’t try to pull them back or run along with them; you will fall down,” he said, adding that the best thing is for people to not walk dogs they can’t handle. “Big, strong dogs with aged, weak people – that is the problem.”
A study conducted in the US last year by some University of Pennsylvania researchers gives a context to how dangerous dog walking is for aged people. It showed that more than 4,300 elderly suffered fractures while walking their dogs which were so serious that they needed to go to the emergency ward of a hospital.