5 Fun Ways Caregivers Can Help Seniors Stay Active

January 17, 2017

It’s no secret that staying active is an important aspect of maintaining health, but it’s not an easy thing for everyone to do, even for the young and relatively healthy.  Let’s take stock for a moment – there is a whole generation of human beings who have never known a world without the internet.  And in about a decade, there will be very few people still alive who were born before television was invented.  That means we have had the siren’s song of technology luring us into our homes keeping us spellbound and sedentary for nearly 100 years.  That said, older generations grew up in an era where staying active was part of everyday life, partly because they didn’t grow up with the 24-hour news or entertainment cycle, big-screen TV, video games, or a car ride for everywhere they wanted to go.  Those of us that grew up in the 80s even had to walk or ride a bike almost everywhere we went.   

The point is, regardless of what our activity level was when we were young, it is much harder to stay active as we age, for a variety of reasons.  Joints stiffen, muscle mass shrinks and endurance wanes.  We start losing peers or loved ones and may succumb to loneliness or depression, all of which are lethal to motivation.  But the thing is, the stakes for keeping active only increase with age.  In fact, not doing so can make the process of aging occur more rapidly and unpleasantly.  If you are a caregiver for an aging individual, you’re in the unique position to encourage and facilitate senior clients to have a more active lifestyle.  But if the prospect of walks through the park or signing up for a water aerobics class gives you and your elder employer the yawns, and Pokemon Go is just not an option, here are five fun ideas to get your boss out there and moving around: 

  1. Sign the two of you up for a dancing class.  It doesn’t take hip hop or tap moves to get the heart rate going.  Even ballroom dancing can get the juices flowing and the heart rate up.  If you also sign up, you will have a much easier time getting him or her to agree to the prospect, and you can also check staying active off your own list (you just might have fun too). 
  1. Try Tai Chi.  Ok, so it may look silly to some, but it’s got some surprising health benefits, isn’t too strenuous and helps relieve stress. 
  1. Go geocaching.  So yes, you’ll have to do some time in the car, but it’s a great way to get outdoors and stimulate that person who has a competitive streak. Just make sure any expeditions are within your senior client’s physical abilities.     
  1. Go to an Art Walk.  They’re growing in popularity, and can satisfy the exercise requirement as well as speak to the right side of the brain. You also benefit from the social aspect, getting out and networking with others helps keep your brain healthy too!   
  1. For those charitable souls, try volunteering at an animal shelter to walk dogs.  Not only would you be doing a good deed, dogs can be extremely therapeutic.  If animals aren’t for you, take a look at other types of volunteer activities, such as park or beach cleanups.   

The beauty of incorporating as much fun as possible into staying active is that it doesn’t feel like a chore, and therefore isn’t such a hard sell.  A spoonful of sugar in the sea of medicine bottles, if you will.  And best of all, as a senior caregiver tagging along you will also reap the benefits of better health – the ultimate win-win!  

About the Author

Heather Thatcher has worked with healthcare policy for aging and people with disabilities for nearly 20 years. Originally from California, Heather now makes her home in Central Oregon. She has a bachelor of science degree in political and social science.

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