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Biokinetics is giving many a resident of Rand Aid’s retirement villages a new lease on life


Leg marching while seated on a ball for leg strength and improved balance ability. Pictured are Hazel Murray (Tarentaal), Lorraine Pintusewitz (Inyoni Creek), Lorraine Lynn (Tarentaal), Shelagh Hawes (Elphin Lodge) and Sue Benjamin (Inyoni Creek), with biokineticist Hannah Raath


Hannah Raath, a biokineticist who has a special interest in elders, and her team regularly put the residents of Inyoni Creek, Elphin Lodge, Thornhill Manor and Tarentaal through their paces.

“Due to enhanced medical care, people are living a lot longer. If an older adult participates in regular exercise, they will be a lot more functional and able to move in their golden years,” says Hannah.

Rand Aid resident Lorraine Lynn says that biokinetics has worked wonders in every part of her body. “I have terrible osteoarthritis in my spine and used to cry with pain, but after starting biokinetics in February this year, I am able to move much easier, with no pain.”

Hannah, who has an MSc (Med) Biokinetics, has a keen interest in fall prevention as well as motor learning in patients who have suffered a neural injury or stroke. Her Masters research was focused on assessing what exercises are most effective in reducing falls in older persons.

She explains that biokinetics enhances life through rehabilitative movement designed specifically for each individual’s needs. Programmes can assist with orthopaedic injury treatment, cardiac rehabilitation, management of chronic diseases and health promotion and wellness.

“The process of ageing is complex and involves many variables – including genetics, lifestyle factors and chronic diseases – that interact with each other, determining the manner in which we age. Regular physical activity produces a number of favourable responses that contribute to healthy ageing, and people who exercise will find that they will have a lot more physical function and ability in their golden years, compared to sedentary individuals where frailty is more likely. 

“Older adults who regularly participate in endurance training benefit from lowered blood pressure; this effect is more pronounced in individuals with hypertension,” she says.

Sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass with age, is a major component of normal ageing that causes a reduction in muscle strength. Between the ages of 50-70 years, it is generally found that there is a 30% reduction in strength (15% per decade), and from 70 years onwards, strength decreases by 30% each decade thereafter. 

“In addition, the older adults often lose their ability to balance, and this can lead to falling. Therefore, improving mobility and stability through exercise enhances the body’s response to balance and this leads directly to reduction of fall risk in older adults.”

Lastly, she explains, ageing affects structures that make up joints, which may reduce their range and the function. Improving flexibility enhances muscle or connective tissue properties, and this causes a reduction in joint pain and a change in muscle recruitment patterns. “This contributes to improving an individual’s ability to perform the activities of daily living.”


Rand Aid residents participating in a mobility and balance training exercise class with Hannah Raath


Hannah believes that all adults should avoid inactivity, explaining that some exercise is better than none, with even small amounts of activity proving to be beneficial.  “Various guidelines emphasise that older adults should aim to achieve 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. If this is not achievable due to chronic conditions, older adults should be as physically active as their limitations allow.”

Shelagh Hawes agrees. “I’ve been coming to biokinetics for about three years now.  The pain in my knee has gone away, my balance has improved and I have gained more confidence in my walking.”

Hannah comments: “Shelagh has managed to strengthen her legs very well and her balance and mobility are much improved.”

Other residents have equally positive stories to share. Hazel Murray says that after breaking her hip for the second time, her balance was bad and her legs needed strengthening. “Biokinetics has helped tremendously with both.”

Inyoni Creek resident Sue Benjamin says she has arthritis in her joints. “After having treatment on and off since 2015, I have discovered that it is important to keep moving, despite the stiffness. Biokinetics has helped me to loosen my joints and has given me more movement, strength and balance.”

Lorraine Pintusewitz says that after both hip and knee replacements, she is now walking much better, thanks to regular biokinetics.

Both individual supervised exercise treatment sessions and group classes are offered at three Rand Aid villages. Individual sessions are designed for people who have a specific injury, medical condition or physical challenge that may require a higher level of supervision while group classes are for people who have progressed from individual sessions, or for people who have no specific physical complaint but want to keep fit and improve their balance and mobility.

Hannah made a recent guest appearance on Carte Blanche. The programme showcased a few amazing older adults who were exceptionally fit and agile. “The main message that we were trying to get across is that older adults, regardless of their ability, need to try and keep moving.” 


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