The Best Types of Exercise for Seniors

We all know exercise is important for our health, but did you know that it’s even more important for those over 65? You might worry that your senior loved one will fall or hurt themself, but the benefits of exercise for seniors far outweigh the risks, even for those who are frail or suffering from age-related disease – as long as it’s the right kind of exercise done safely.

Exercise can help extend seniors’ lives and improve their quality of life. It helps seniors prevent falls and injuries, feel strong, and have more energy, so they can remain independent. It can also reduce the risk of developing medical conditions and improve existing ones, including Alzheimer’s and diabetes. It also improves blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.

It’s actually more dangerous for seniors to NOT exercise. When seniors aren’t active, their bodies stop being able to do things they once could. Not only are seniors who aren’t active less independent, but they’re more likely to fall and injure themselves.

Now that we know why exercise is important for seniors, it’s time to help them get active! Find an exercise program your senior loved one will enjoy, so they’ll stick with it. Water aerobics, swing dancing, tai chi, and golf are all excellent exercise opportunities for seniors. Many exercises can also be done at home and don’t require special equipment. On the other hand, seniors’ classes at your local community centre are fun, social, and supervised by a trained professional.

There are four types of exercise seniors should incorporate in their routine for a well-rounded exercise program to help them stay fit, happy, and healthy.

Endurance

Also known as aerobic exercise, endurance exercise gets the heart rate up and gets the respiratory and cardiovascular systems working. Doctors recommend 30 minutes of endurance exercise a day for seniors, which can be broken down into three 10-minute periods for those new to an exercise routine.
The best endurance exercises for seniors are low-impact cardio, like brisk walking, cycling, and dancing. Many community centres offer swimming and water aerobics, which are easier on the joints, and fun classes like tai chi, square dancing, and Zumba Gold, a low-impact dance class designed specifically for older adults. When it’s nice out, take your senior loved one outside for a walk, hike, or even a friendly tennis match to add some vitamin D and socializing to their routine. A senior should notice a difference after a couple weeks of endurance exercise – they’ll be able to work out and perform their day-to-day activities without getting winded or tired.

Strength

Strength and resistance exercises build muscle and strengthen bones. Even small changes to a senior’s strength can have a big impact on their life, by making it easier to do everyday tasks like carrying groceries, getting out of a chair, doing housework, and climbing stairs. Strengthening major muscle groups can also help seniors avoid falls and broken bones and prevent osteoporosis and bone loss.
Doing strength and resistance exercises twice a week is recommended for seniors. They can use one- or two-pound weights or resistance bands, and do 10 to 15 repetitions of exercises like biceps curls and chest presses, progressively increasing the weights as it gets easy for them to build strength. They can also do bodyweight exercises that don’t require equipment. Lunges, leg raises, squats, and modified push-ups on a wall can all help seniors get stronger. Seniors can also sign up at a local gym or community rec centre to use the equipment or attend classes.

Balance

Improving balance is very important for seniors because it improves posture and minimizes the risk of falls, which minimizes the risk of injuries. Yoga and tai chi are great activities that help promote and maintain balance, but there are also simple balance exercises seniors can do at home, like standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, back leg raises, and side raises. Practice doing these while resting a hand on a sturdy chair before reaching the comfort level of doing them freestanding.

Flexibility

Flexibility and stretching exercises help seniors stay limber, prevent injury, and reduce muscle soreness and stiffness. It helps them retain their range of motion, so basic daily tasks, like reaching the top shelf and getting dressed, are easy still easy to do as they age. Simple stretches, like neck and leg stretches, can be done at home to start the day or before other exercises. There are also stretching classes designed specifically for seniors, and yoga and Pilates classes available at many rec centres.

Tips for Choosing an Assisted Living Facility

You’ve decided it’s time to move your parent into an assisted living facility, a happy medium between independent living and a nursing home. They’ll get help with daily activities, be part of a community of peers, and retain some privacy and independence, but they’ll also have peace of mind knowing help is only a call away. It might have been a tough choice to make, but you know it’s the right one.
Now it’s your job to find the perfect place that will ensure your senior loved one is safe, happy, and comfortable. Here are some tips to help you choose the right assisted living facility for the senior in your life.

Involve your senior

It can be tempting to choose the place you like best, but remember, you’re not the one living there. Discuss with your senior loved one their wants, needs, and preferences, and get them involved in the search and decision-making process. It’s important that the assisted living facility feels homey and comfortable to them. It’s all about personal preference. Would they rather be in a large facility with lots of people to socialize with and activities to participate in, or a smaller, cozier environment? If they’re not able to participate in the decision-making process, be sure to consider their personality and preferences instead of your own.

Visit

You won’t be able to find out everything you need to know from a brochure. Plan an in-person visit and tour around lunchtime or for an activity or event. This will allow you to see the culture and community at the facility, when the residents are out and about. While you’re there, pay attention to how well the facility is taken care of. Once you get a sense of the place, it’s easier to go with your intuition about which facility feels right.

Look at the amenities

Laundry, transportation services, 24-hour staff assistance, housekeeping, outdoor spaces, common areas – most assisted living facilities offer these amenities. Instead of looking for the facility with the best or most amenities, look for the one that matches your seniors’ needs. What good is gym if Dad can’t move around so easy anymore? But a library, on the other hand, might be more important to him. Whether there is a shared bathroom or private one in each room, is it handicapped-equipped? Whether rooms are private or shared, is there enough storage space?

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Just because a facility is pricey and fancy doesn’t mean it offers the best care. Yes, you want to get a feel for the cleanliness, atmosphere, and facilities when you take a tour, but don’t get distracted by appearances. The fanciest place doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where your parent will be happiest. It’s more important to pay attention to the people during your visit. Are the staff caring and friendly? Are the residents happy? Do they seem like people your parent would like to get to know?

Check out activities and events

Most assisted living facilities offer activities for their residents to participate in. They are fun, give the residents something to do, and help the community come together and socialize. Have a look at the scheduled activities. Would your loved ones be interested in them? Are there outings? If it’s important to your loved one, are there religious services? Try to schedule your visit to coincide with activities and events, and see if they are well attended.

Try the food

Nutrition is important for health, especially as we age. So if your parent hates the food, that’s a problem. Ask if you can sample a meal at the facility. This will give you a chance to see what mealtime is like and if the other residents seem to enjoy the food. Make sure the food is nutritious and appetizing, and ask all your food-related questions. How many meals a day are provided and at what times? Are there different food options that cater to specific dietary needs? Can residents bring food back to their room or cook their own food if they have a kitchenette? Can visitors join residents for meals or in a private room for family events?

Get reviews and feedback

In addition to talking to the residents and their families when you visit, look online for ratings and reviews. Talk to friends who have already gone through the process. Ask for their honest opinions. You might even consider consulting with a senior advocate or geriatric care manager. This type of experienced professional can make the decision much easier.

Consider the cost

Realistically, money will likely be a determining factor in choosing a facility. However, as we’ve mentioned above, pricier doesn’t mean better. Different facilities have different price structures, and the cost will likely depend on your senior loved one’s personal needs, so it it’s important to get a clear answer from the staff. Make sure you know what’s included and what’s extra. Room and board might be a flat rate, but there might be an additional charge for services like laundry, transportation to appointments, medication management, bathing assistance and meal delivery. Does the price depend on how much care a resident requires? Make sure you understand the billing and payment, and get a sense of how rates have gone up in the past.

Feel confident about the care

To know you’re making the right choice, you need to feel comfortable with the health care provided and know your senior loved one feels safe and secure. How is the care plan developed? Are the staff well trained? How are emergencies handled? Is there 24/7 nurse staff? Be realistic about both current and future health care needs. Make sure the facility you choose is equipped to handle your parent’s needs now and as they age, so they don’t need to move again soon. This will give both you and your senior loved one peace of mind.

Location isn’t everything

Sorry to say it, but convenience for you shouldn’t the top priority when choosing an assisted living facility for your parent. You should choose the facility that best suits their needs, not one that is 10 minutes closer to you. Sure, you may say that if it’s closer you’ll visit more, but that’s usually an unrealistic expectation. Plus, if your parent is happy, has made friends, and is busy doing activities, you won’t need to visit every day.