In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many seniors are advised to stay confined to their homes or rooms. The need for a simple, well-rounded wellness program that promotes senior health and wellness has never been more important. Activity – mental and physical — is essential to keeping seniors healthy, active, and motivated. This is why many senior living providers and caregivers are looking for a fresh approach to engaging residents in wellness activities while keeping them comfortable and abiding by social distancing regulations.
Here are some ideas to encourage seniors to stay active:
Emotional and Mental Health
Emotional and mental health is an important aspect of life and can be especially critical during stressful times. Suggestions for seniors include:
- Call or video chat with loved ones to maintain social interaction.
- Manage stress through meditation, exercise, and breathing, accompanied by holistic remedies, such as essential oils blends.
- Find a healthy balance between rest and physical activity taking breaks from news stories and social media.
- Communicate emotional challenges through resources such as a Life Story Book.
Studies have found that staying fit delivers a wide range of physical and mental benefits – from lowering blood pressure and building stronger muscles to boosting mood, improving memory, and protecting the brain from age-related mental decline.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), four types of physical exercises can benefit seniors: strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance. Robin Gill, regional wellness director at Lifetime Wellness, a leading provider of wellness services to senior living communities, offers the following guidance:
- Strength – Strength-building exercises, such as resistance training and free weights, may range from arm raises and knee flexes to chair stands and bicep curls. These exercises can improve muscle tone, reduce age-related muscle loss, and increase metabolism. They can also help maintain independence and keep blood sugar stable.
- Balance – Balance exercises help to prevent falls and avoid the serious problems that can follow a fall. Regularly doing a few simple exercises, such as Tai Chi, can gradually improve balance, increase coordination, and lower fall risk.
- Flexibility – Stretching is essential to maintaining range of motion. As we age, muscles shorten and lose their elasticity. Stretching can restore flexibility and freedom of movement. A popular choice for seniors is yoga, combining gentle, stretching movements with deep breathing techniques. Chair yoga exercises and relaxation practices can be done without getting on the floor – and are an excellent choice for those with mobility challenges.
- Aerobic endurance – Endurance exercises help circulate more oxygen in the blood, helping to improve cardiovascular health and brain function. Activities include any continuous movement, such as walking or chair dancing, that elevates breathing and keeps the heart rate up.
All of these exercises and more are a part of the Lifetime Wellness Quick Reference Exercise Guide and can be used in any setting, from assisted living to right at home. These exercises use minimal equipment, but should you need basic weights or workout equipment, here are a few household items that can be used as an alternative:
- Water bottles or canned foods for hand weights
- Pillows for creating an incline
- Robe ties or towels, an alternative to a resistance band
- A chair to provide stability or to be used as a balance bar
Why Is Senior Health Important?
Ultimately, a vibrant senior fitness program helps seniors maintain functional independence for as long as possible. During these difficult times, investing in emotional, mental, and physical health programs will help seniors stay in shape, in motion, and in sync with opportunities for an enhanced quality of life.