278 chapter 13: Growing older with a disability
Health problems caused by aging
Women often do not think about
themselves as growing older until
their children are grown or until
their bodies start to change. You
may also notice that your body gets
tired more often, that you are not as
strong as you used to be, or that it is
not as easy for you to move about.
When I grew up I was
always referred to as
disabled. Now I’m just
seen as an old woman
with a stick.
The better you understand the changes that can
happen as women grow older, the easier it will be for
you to know if changes in your body are part of aging or
are caused by your disability. For information on taking
care of your body, see page 85. Here are problems women
with some disabilities may have as they get older:
Weaker or painful muscles and joints
If your disability means that part of your body does not work as well as another
part, over time you have probably overused the part that works better to make up
for the part that does not work as well. For example:
• if one of your legs is paralyzed, you probably use the ‘good leg’ more than
someone who has use of both legs, and the joints may become weak from
• if you use a wheelchair or crutches for a long time, the joints in your hands,
arms, and shoulders can become painful from overuse and start to wear out.
• if you are a very small woman (dwarf), you may find you start to get pains in
your shoulders, knees, and hips from all the reaching and climbing you have
done over the years.
If you are using a wheelchair or spending more time
in bed, it is very important to move around and change
positions as much as you can to prevent pressure sores
(see page 116).
For women who use wheelchairs
Women who use wheelchairs usually get less exercise
as they age. Ask other people to help you stand or use a
standing frame so you can put weight on the bones in your
legs. Also try to keep the bones in your arms strong by
lifting things. For more exercise ideas, see pages 88 to 95.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007