The New Year is a time when many people start thinking about getting fit and exercising and it’s no different for seniors. As seniors age, remaining active becomes increasingly important. Senior living communities and caregivers should consider looking beyond traditional physical therapy options to keep seniors engaged and active.
Seniors are most receptive to physical therapy when caregivers and their therapists develop individualized plans that fit both their lifestyle and interests. Research shows that it is difficult to motivate seniors to begin to exercise if it hasn’t previously been a priority. Integrating modified, low-impact activities, like yoga, into seniors’ exercise plans increases the likelihood that they will commit to a new, healthy lifestyle and keep it up.
While traditional physical therapy programs usually focus on stretching, weight training, balance exercises and aquatic therapy, more progressive programs, like those provided at Grand Villa of Largo, incorporate non-traditional exercise elements. While we do have one resident who is 101 years old doing laps in our parking lot with her walker, that’s not the norm. Caregivers with seniors at home can duplicate some of the programming activities we offer at the community and reap some of the fitness and wellness without even knowing it. These benefits that can be derived from activities such as:
- Gardening: Residents often can be seen gardening, a favorite pastime of many seniors.
Physical therapists can work with seniors to demonstrate what exercises can be incorporated into daily gardening, but even at home simply engaging in the activity is a form of exercise that you shouldn’t overlook.
- Chair exercises: A lot can be done when you are seated – at home, at the office, on an airplane or on your senior’s favorite bench. From arm circles and neck stretches to knee extensions and squeezing a ball, sitting doesn’t have to mean lounging.
- Balloon volleyball: You need only two participants, you and your senior, but this can be a fun group activity that also is played sitting down. Simply line up chairs across from each other and use a balloon as your volleyball. In this game, you can use your feet to kick!
- Horse shoes: Each shoe weighs approximately 2 ½ pounds. You throw two shoes 27 feet per turn and play to at least 40 points. That’s a lot of arm swinging and range of motion, without really thinking about the “exercise” benefits.
- Wii bowling: If horse shoes are too heavy, seniors can grab a lightweight video game controller and “bowl” in front of their television. Many senior communities challenge each other to bowling tournaments. Why not challenge your senior at home too?
It’s important for every caregiver to understand that physical therapy isn’t and shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all program. In order for seniors to commit to live healthy, active lifestyles, their caregivers must both encourage and assist in developing a physical therapy and exercise regimen that works for them.