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Osteoarthritis or Osteoporosis

Last updated on: Friday, 5 May 2023
  • What You'll Learn

What is Osteoarthritis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. The problem occurs most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees, where the cartilage within a joint begins to break down, and the underlying bone begins to change. Some of the signs and symptoms are pain or aching, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and swelling. There are significant risk factors such as joint injury or overuse, the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age; women are more likely to develop it. Other risks include obesity, as extra weight puts more stress on joints, and genetics because people who have family members with OA are more likely to develop the problem.

According to Stats Canada, osteoarthritis affects more than 10% of Canadians aged 15 or older. The strong association between osteoarthritis and advanced aging means that as the population ages, there is an increased prevalence of the condition’s impact. It is important for seniors who struggle with this problem to manage the conditions properly. Seniors should learn self-management skills, such as education classes, to increase confidence in controlling symptoms and living well. Physical activity is essential as regular physical activity can reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases.

If seniors are struggling, they should maintain contact with their doctor, who can play an active role in controlling arthritis with regular appointments. For overweight or obese people, losing weight is essential as it reduces pressure on the joints. Seniors should also protect their joints, as joint injuries cause worsen arthritis. As you become older, it is important to choose activities that are easy on the joints like walking, cycling, or swimming.

What is Osteoporosis?

According to the Mayo Clinic, osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle. Bones can become so brittle that even a fall or mild stress such as bending over or coughing causes a fracture. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of a new bone does not keep up with the loss of old bone. The problem affects men and women and becomes worse with age. Typically, there are no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. However, once the bones are weakened by osteoporosis, the symptoms include back pain, loss of height over time, a stooped posture, and a bone that breaks much more easily than expected.

A person’s bones are in a constant state of renewal, and new bones are made from an old bone that is broken. Most people reach their peak bone mass by age 30, and as you become older, bone mass is lost faster than it is created. The likelihood of developing osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass is attained during your youth. The risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis include your age, race, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions. Some of these risk factors are out of your control, such as your sex, age, race, family history, and body frame size.

According to Health Canada, osteoporosis affects men and women and is more frequent among women. It is estimated that roughly one out of four women and one out of eight men over the age of 50 in Canada have the problem. Wrist, spine, and hip fractures are most commonly associated with osteoporosis and typically occur when a person falls. Hip fracture due to the problem is a serious issue for seniors. Morality increases significantly after a hip fracture and less than 50% who experienced the injury fully recover with full mobility. Approximately 25% of residents living in long-term care experience a hip fracture.

What is Arthritis and How Does it Affect Seniors?

According to the Arthritis Society, the problem affects people of every age and stays for life. Unfortunately, arthritis is a complex disease with over 100 different types. Arthritis is painful and results in stiffness and inflammation of joints that impact mobility, especially among seniors. If the arthritis is not treated, it has the potential to cause permanent joint damage. Most people who have arthritis are overweight and are physically inactive, adding unnecessary stress to their joints. Moreover, some types of arthritis affect the heart, eyes, lungs, kidneys, and skin.

Most people living with arthritis also report difficulties with the activities of daily life, which is a primary reason why many seniors choose assisted living facilities. Approximately six million Canadians have arthritis, which is one in five. About 20% of the population aged 15 and over have arthritis, and women are more likely to have arthritis than men. Nearly 60% of those struggling with arthritis are women, and the likelihood of arthritis increases with age. Nearly one in two seniors over the age of 65 have arthritis, and nearly 60% of women over 65 will have arthritis. The Arthritis Society points out that the prevalence of arthritis is on the rise, and by 2040, 50% more people will have arthritis.

Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis and Senior Health

These two conditions are completely different but get confused as being similar because of the prefix osteo. The prefix osteo, which means bones, is the only thing that these two diseases have in common. However, individuals who suffer from both should seek help in understanding which process is causing which symptoms. Nutrition is one of the best preventative measures that seniors can take along with remaining physically active. According to the Osteoporosis Society, as we get older, we often pay less attention to our diet. Many seniors live alone and do not always cook for themselves. Many seniors also become less active, or shopping for groceries becomes more difficult.

The information suggests that bone is made up of protein in addition to calcium and other minerals, a nutrient that is necessary for building and repairing body tissues. Protein gives bone strength and flexibility. Protein is also a big component of muscles, and unfortunately, many seniors do not receive enough protein or other important nutrients. Less protein means weaker bones and weaker muscles. Vitamin D is also an important nutrient that protects seniors against falls and fractures. If you are considering taking any vitamin supplementation, it is important to speak to a medical advisor first.

Additionally, calcium is an important nutrient that builds stronger bones. For those over the age of 50, Canada’s Food Guide recommends three servings of milk and alternative servings for adults under the age of 50. Other important foods for bone health are fruits and vegetables, which provide many nutrients that are important for bone-like vitamin c, vitamin k, potassium, magnesium, phytoestrogens, and antioxidants.

Within Canada, at least one in three women and one in five men suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime. It is estimated that close to two million Canadians are affected by osteoporosis, and over 80% of all fractures in people aged 50 and over are caused by the disease. Approximately one in three hip fracture patients will re-fracture within one year, and 28% of women and 37% of men who suffer a hip fracture die within one year.

How do Retirement Communities or Assisted Living Homes Help Seniors with Osteoporosis or Osteoarthritis?

These issues affect the health and quality of life of countless older adults, and senior living communities that offer skilled nursing services are well aware of the extent to which these issues affect residents. Most senior living facilities offer exercise, nutrition, and other wellness programs designed to maximize health and alleviate some of the symptoms. Besides the various medical treatments, health interventions like physical exercise, proper nutrition, and weight control are essential. Whether an assisted living facility or retirement homes, senior living homes should promote and or provide proper nutrition.

Nutrition is paramount, and the dining options should cater to seniors’ unique nutritional needs, so they receive the correct proportion of vitamins, minerals, and healthful foods. For example, a diet high in fibre, protein, and nutrients but low in salt, sugar, and saturated fat helps most seniors maintain a healthy weight. Senior living facilities should also focus on exercise because even something as simple as walking can improve pain and quality of life. Most senior living communities provide a variety and a wide range of physical activities. Classes are often tailored to the needs of the residents.