Osteoporosis, social life, leisure and holidays

People who had been recently diagnosed, and those with mild osteoporosis or osteopenia, indicated that they had made little or no change to their social life or leisure activities. Others thought that osteoporosis didn’t have any direct effect on their social life. Clare said that she has an active social life with ‘lots of hobbies, lots of friends and lots of life’. Marylin spends many of her evenings at the gym. Jenny goes line dancing three times a week. The only things that Gloria wouldn’t do are physical activities that would put a strain on her skeleton, but apart from that she says that her life hasn’t been too affected by osteoporosis. For Iris, every day since her retirement is ‘like a Saturday, you can go out.’
Others had the attitude that pain or other physical problems shouldn’t limit their leisure activities and had instead adapted or changed things like hobbies so they kept themselves busy and physically and socially active. Susan, for example, can no longer play badminton but she walks and does the gardening instead. Pat goes with her husband to their local indoors bowls club at the weekend where they meet up with friends to play bingo. Elizabeth, who was diagnosed in 1978, said that osteoporosis has been in the ‘background’ but it hasn’t stopped her from leading an active social life and travelling. Several thought that old age rather than osteoporosis per se is more likely to affect their social life.
Several elderly people lived in retired sheltered accommodation and said that social activities were organised for residents, such as coffee mornings, bridge clubs, book clubs and musical evenings. But the level of activities varied a lot. Whereas, Elizabeth said there were lots of activities arranged for residents in the retirement accommodation she lived in, Cressida was a ‘bit disappointed’ with her place of residence because people were not as sociable as she had hoped. Betty observed that activities decreased as people become older and were less inclined to take part. Residents also organised other activities such as a trip to the theatre, museum or a coach tour for the day.
Sometimes people were affected by loneliness. Old age, ill health and little mobility can all have an impact on social networks and social interaction. Some people, particularly the elderly explained that a reduced social world was the result of close friends dying or moving away or suffering from ill health. Whilst many people said that they maintained regular contact with their children and grandchildren, those who had lost their spouses lived alone. Sydney lives alone and enjoys meeting his ex-work colleagues at the pub once a week. Only Emma and Iris have grown up children living at home with them (see also Family, friends and support for people with osteoporosis).
Most of the people we interviewed said that their families had been very supportive; that they go on holidays or take short breaks together. But Diana said that much of her social life is with friends her own age rather than with her family because they tend to do different activities.
Limited physical mobility and living in small closed-knit communities benefited the social life of several of the elderly people we talked to. Having friends a few doors away and belonging to the same clubs and enjoying doing the same activities seemed to keep loneliness and depression at bay.
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Leisure and community activities have been reduced by several people due to physical problems that have resulted from osteoporosis. Sarah explained that she doesn’t go to the cinema now because the seats are uncomfortable. Neville no longer goes out without a member of his family and when he does they tend to go to garden centres or other shops where he can find a seat, because he can’t stand for long.
Younger people also said that there had been some affect on their social life. Pain medication, tiredness, not drinking alcohol, avoiding going out at night were factors mentioned by Robert as contributing to a more limited and more family-orientated social life. He said that now he prefers to do leisure activities as a family and he enjoys spending more time pottering around at home. Similarly, Jane is not able to socialise as she had done before her spinal fractures. She no longer enjoyed sitting in the pub or going camping because it increased her pain and discomfort. Noreen worried at first that she was spoiling her friend’s night out when she felt in pain and wanted to go back home.
But David, who is in his early twenties, said that his social life has improved dramatically in the last five years. Both, university and work had increased the number of friends and acquaintances he has and he enjoyed varied social and leisure activities, including going to football matches. Having his own car and more accessible public places for wheelchair users have also helped his social life. Emma also agreed that being able to drive improves her social life as well as being financially stable.
Several people who had osteoporosis took regular holidays abroad. Some elderly people still took regular holidays abroad and travelled alone. Air travel was found to be easy as they were usually provided with a wheelchair and transported around the airport. In winter, Sydney goes abroad for two months to the same holiday resort so he knows other retired British people holidaying there too. Victoria Iris has accumulated a lot of experience about the best ways of travelling by air and sea and what do to in terms of transport, luggage and managing medication and medical care while overseas.
Getting to and from holiday destinations had put some people off travelling abroad because their main problem is lifting and carrying their luggage. No-one was aware of a company who organised a pick-up service from home to the airport. Several people, like Diana and Dennis, had found that organised holidays by coach were better for them because all the arrangements, including the carrying of luggage, were organised. Joan is thinking of going on a cruise in the future. Christine feels disappointed that she can no longer go on holiday but compensates by enjoying the music scene where she lives.
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Several people still do active holidays like caravanning in the UK but Margery and her husband travel to the continent every year.
Holidays and trips away from home may not be straightforward for some people particularly for those using wheelchairs or needing oxygen on a regular basis, like Joan and Beryl. Joan and her husband enjoyed the support from their two daughters who organised short breaks for both of them. Joan usually goes to stay with one daughter and an oxygen supply is organised in advance with a local company.
Others no longer travel abroad on their own for fear of being taken ill or because they felt it was more comfortable staying in their own homes. Susannah doesn’t want to travel on her own because she feels fragile so she is thinking of going to a Pilates retreat in the UK instead. Linda and Michelle were no longer keen on skiing holidays because they did not want to take unnecessary risks.
Osteoporosis is a notifiable condition when applying for travel insurance. Moreover, Robert thinks that it is important to tell companies about the severity of the osteoporosis in order to get the right cover. Pat said that she booked her insurance on the internet with Age Concern because it was the cheapest she could find.

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Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated April 2011


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