Giving medication reminders, cooking meals, managing doctor’s appointments and keeping schedules – daily tasks can all be challenging, but one in particular gives families a lot of grief: ensuring our loved ones are stimulated and entertained. If a senior’s abilities have waned, it can be challenging to find ways to adapt or replace the pastimes they once loved. Sometimes, though, our loved ones simply lose interest and incentive to participate in life. They may complain or nag us or spend most of each day sleeping or watching television.
As you think about the best ways to care for your aging parent or loved one, one of the things you can do that will provide the most benefit in all areas of life is encouraging exercise. Being active can help your aging senior in a wide range of ways, from strengthening social relationships to improving memory and even preventing depression.
Exercising can be very helpful mentally. When one works out, the body releases endorphins which are positivity boosters for the mind. Exercising can help seniors to ensure they are not feeling depressed and it can help their overall mood. In addition, exercising helps to improve strength and mobility. This is very proactive because normally as we get older we tend to become more sedentary. However, staying active ensures our bodies stay strong. Exercising can come in many different forms. Many of us think about going to the gym and lifting weights. However, for a senior, exercising can be very simple like taking daily walks, swimming, or maybe even taking an exercise class. This can also help seniors to become socially engaged as well.
What Exercises Does To Keep Them Active
Exercise is a Social Activity
For many seniors, exercise is a social event. A water aerobics class gives the chance to connect with other seniors. A walking group provides the chance to catch up on exercise and the latest social news. Any of these opportunities provide accountability and support for your loved one to stay motivated and engaged. Encouraging your senior to stay active means encouraging a healthy social life, in many cases.
Exercise Improves Mood
Have you ever experienced the so-called “runners high”? If so, then you know one of the benefits of exercise is its ability to affect mood and disposition.
Exercising releases mood-boosting endorphins which can help lessen feelings of depression. If your aging loved one is suffering from mood swings or depression, exercise could help redirect their negative thoughts and provide a great deal of support.
Exercise Improves Strength and Mobility
Keeping the body strong is one of the most important tasks for an older adult, and exercise is the best way to improve both strength and mobility. Seniors who “sit around” most of the time can suffer from atrophied muscles, difficulty breathing and walking, unsteady balance, poor blood flow, and other common physical problems. Simply getting off the couch and moving can help with these issues. Even a short walk a few times a day has its benefits!
Exercise Increases Mental Capacity
Physical activity has been directly linked to slowing the process of mental decline. When you are physically active, every part of your body, including the brain, receives more blood flow. Blood flow encourages cell growth. By encouraging the senior in your life to stay active, you are actually encouraging better mental health and improved cognitive functioning.
Exercise Improves Healing
The healing process takes longer as we age, but exercise can help. Active adults have wounds that heal as much as 25 percent faster than those who do not exercise. Beginning an exercise program now, before an incident occurs, may allow your aging loved one to benefit from improved healing and a faster recovery after an injury or surgical procedure.
Keeping in touch with friends can also become difficult as we get older. However, having a strong relationship with a couple of friends and family members can help ensure seniors have a healthy support system. This also helps to ensure that seniors do not feel lonely or isolated. Those types of feelings can lead to depression. Having friends and family to spend time with also helps to engage our minds and allows to enjoy reminiscing moments in life and keep our minds as active as possible. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “researchers found evidence that elderly people in the U.S. who have an active social life may have a slower rate of memory decline”.
Aging is something that almost everyone goes through. As humans, it’s a part of life but we can take steps to make it as healthy as possible so that we can enjoy growing older rather than dreading or fearing it. Staying active both physically and socially help our seniors to stay as young as possible for longer periods of time.
Why exactly should seniors stay socially active?
So we have established that it is important for seniors to stay socially active, but why exactly is this the case? Well, staying socially active is perhaps just as important as staying physically active in order for seniors to enjoy good health. The following are some reasons why seniors should maintain at least a moderate level of social activity.
Reduced risk for mental health issues
Interacting with your peers on a constant basis helps to prevent a whole host of mental health issues. These can range from depression to poor cognitive function. Why, you may ask? When you stay socially active, your brain is constantly engaged, leading to the maintenance of a sharper mind and reducing the potential for faltering cognitive function. For example, your risk for Alzheimer’s disease will be lower as compared to a senior who is socially isolated.
The interaction also gives you a sense of belonging and helps you to stay connected to the world around you. This is a fantastic way to reduce stress levels and prevent depression. Conversely, if you are socially isolated, you will be at much higher risk of feeling lonely and hence developing depression.
Be more physically active
One excellent by-product of staying socially active is that it almost always correlates to being more physically active as compared to seniors who are socially isolated. This is because you will tend to get out of the house more instead of just staying home alone every day. Your immune system and nutrition levels will also be improved since socially engaged seniors tend to eat more when they are around others.
Here are other social activities for seniors:
- Volunteer. If you’re physically able, volunteering in your community can lead to a feeling of accomplishment and purpose.
- Go back to work. Working even at a part-time job can help keep your mind stimulated and keep you connected to others on a regular basis.
- Join a club or group. Whether it be a book club, garden club, or a golf group, these meetups are a great way to get introduced to new people and share experiences with those who have similar interests.
- Take a class. Sign up for a writing course or an art class at a community college or adult education center. You’ll learn something new while interacting with others and keeping your brain active.
- Join a gym. As mentioned before, staying physically active is also very important for seniors, and by joining a gym you’ll get double the benefit. You’ll keep your body active as well as have social engagement with others.
- Visit family. Reach out to family often to maintain these relationships. You can even offer assistance with babysitting your grandchildren.
- Learn new technology. Learning to use the internet will give you the ability to connect via email or social media with friends and loved ones who don’t live nearby. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, the 74+ demographic is the fastest-growing group across web-based social networks!