Navigating Arthritis: A Guide for Seniors

Navigating Arthritis: A Guide for Seniors

May is Arthritis Awareness Month and provides an opportunity to help bring awareness to the condition and those living with it. Arthritis is a complex and often debilitating disease that can impact mobility, independence, and overall quality of life. According to the CDC, nearly half of adults aged 65 and older reported having doctor-diagnosed arthritis. But, with the right knowledge, tools, and coping strategies, seniors can help manage their arthritis symptoms and continue to live a healthy and fulfilled life.

Understanding Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation and stiffness in the joints. Arthritis itself is more of an umbrella term for these symptoms and varying joint disorders.  

The Most Common Types of Arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis: The most common type of arthritis, known as “wear and tear” arthritis, frequently occurs in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced flexibility.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune and inflammatory disease where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake, causing painful swelling in the affected areas of the body. It can also impact multiple joints simultaneously, as well as organs and body systems other than the joints.

Symptoms and Challenges: 

Seniors with arthritis may experience a range of symptoms, including joint pain, stiffness, swelling, fatigue, redness and warmth surrounding affected joints, and a reduced range of motion. These symptoms can cause physical and daily limitations for activities like walking, climbing stairs, and even dressing. Additionally, arthritis can impact mental well-being, leading to feelings of frustration, depression, and isolation. Joint pain can worsen after periods of inactivity or excessive use, which is why learning how to manage and reduce your symptoms is so important. Experiencing persistent and often worsening pain can be challenging and hard to manage, but it is not impossible. 

Management and Treatment:

Sadly, there is no cure for arthritis, but luckily, there are various treatment options to help manage symptoms, improve joint mobility, and slow the progression of the disease.

  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs, corticosteroids, or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are commonly prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises tailored to you and dependent on the type of arthritis you have and the severity of it. These stretches and exercises can help improve flexibility, mobility, and strength.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Arthritis symptoms can be heavily exasperated by various lifestyle elements, such as the food we consume, our activity level, and our weight. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding activities that worsen symptoms, and using assistive devices can help alleviate symptoms. Other adaptations in your environment, such as handrails and ergonomic tools (such as an ergonomic keyboard or jar opener), can help prevent flares. Exercising regularly and engaging in low-impact activities such as walking or swimming can also result in reduced symptoms. For other senior-friendly exercises, you can check out our previous blog titled “Staying Active and Healthy: Senior-Friendly Exercises.”
  • Surgery: In severe cases, joint replacement surgery (such as the common hip replacement procedure) may be recommended to relieve pain and improve mobility.

Ultimately, you and your doctor should discuss your symptoms to determine a diagnosis and decide what plan of action would work best for you. Regular medical check-ups are also recommended for seniors with arthritis to help monitor disease progression, adjust treatment plans as needed, and offer different options for symptom management. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest about the severity of your symptoms; doing this will ensure you receive adequate care. The goal is to be able to make daily tasks easier and reduce the severity and frequency of flares.

Arthritis is a common condition among seniors, but it doesn’t have to define or limit their lives. By understanding their symptoms and the ways to best manage them, seniors can take charge of their health and well-being. With the proper care and tools, seniors can continue to lead active and fulfilling lives.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2024, April 26). Arthritis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Written For Senior Industry Services by Lauren Hope Bartling