No matter your age, exercise is recommended to keep you healthy mentally and physically. While exercise will look different in senior communities due to the prevalence of disabilities, conditions, and older age, movement is still crucial and makes a huge difference in overall wellbeing.
Studies show daily movement for seniors improves healthy years and years of life, with even more benefits for the long term care industry as a whole. Keeping senior residents active means keeping them happy and healthy, out of the hospital, on fewer medications, and receiving fewer treatments.
So how can you implement systems and activities for daily moving or exercise in senior communities? The COVID-19 pandemic has likely changed exercise routines, but there are still ways to keep up regimens at this time and beyond.
The options for exercise classes are endless. No matter if seniors are in chairs or able to fully ambulate, they can participate in a range of activities to get their blood pumping.
Choose a topic and look it up online for pointers in articles or Youtube videos. It’s nice to have the professionals come in to teach a class, but an available staff or activity director can do the job with a little guidance from Google!
Some examples of popular exercise classes for senior communities include:
- Chair Yoga
- Chair Zumba: Free videos to follow on Youtube!
- Chair Boxing: Free video to follow on Youtube!
Helpful online streaming programs include YouTube, Silver Sneakers and Eversound’s activity programming who partners with senior-focused wellness providers like Flavor Dance Company. The important part is to get creative and have fun, so long as seniors are moving, it is making a difference.
There’s nothing wrong with a little competition! Although there isn’t as much going on within communities during the pandemic, seniors are encouraged to safely get out of their rooms to avoid isolation and move their bodies.
Competitions give the incentive to move and also help to keep seniors accountable. Try a challenge or competition with a prize!
Task competitors to walk to and from the dining room and initial their name 1-3 times per day.
Walking Distance Competition
Help seniors keep track of the laps they do of the floor or distance they walk outdoors.
There are safe ways to allow seniors to get involved in their facility, and a competition can be for seniors to try and participate in the most activities.
Keeping seniors moving doesn’t have to be exercise all the time. The CDC recommendations depend on the intensity of movement, with a recommendation for 150 minutes of low-impact activity per week.
Some of this can and should be exercise like walking, but working with staff and doing volunteer duties can be a part of this time as well.
Some ways to keep seniors moving with volunteer jobs include:
- Help in the kitchen
- Delivering newspapers
- Passing Trays
- Folding Laundry
- Cleaning Windows
- Sorting Mail
There is something for everyone to do around the facility, whether it be leading an activity, being a helping hand, or using their creativity.
Some seniors may enjoy their chores while others don’t, but it’s a great way to keep seniors moving at least a little bit each day.
Encouraging chores might be setting up a calendar or schedule for chores each day, or creating a fun chore wheel for seniors to spin to be assigned a chore. For those who enjoy chores, they may be interested in assisting with more chores as a volunteer as well!
With that said, it’s important to recommend only chores that are fitting for the particular person. While some seniors do their laundry solo, others need additional help.
Here are a range of chore ideas for different ability levels:
- Washing dishes
- Wash windows
- Set the table for meal
- Cook a meal
- Serve a meal
- Fold towels
- Make the bed
- Pick up the mail
Changing Their Environment
The goal is to get seniors out of their chairs and moving around. While exercise is the most effective way to get the benefits of this, encouraging walking and exploring will do the trick.
During the holidays and throughout the year, there are plenty of times to decorate and change the themes on doors, in hallways, and around communities as a whole. By changing the environment or having a set up to visit or take photos of, seniors will have the incentive to get up and check it out.
Keep hallways, boards, and rooms interesting to encourage the exploration of residents around the building in a safe way.
Some opportunities for decoration can be:
- Staff decorating their doors for birthdays
- Holiday decorations lining the walls and ceilings of floors
- Christmas tree set up in common area
- Bulletin board of jokes, photos, or trivia facts
- Safe outdoor excursions to grocery store, craft store, or park
- Walking group
- Wii Sports/Video Games
Don’t Underestimate the Power of A Little Movement
Again, the activity seniors get doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. The important part is to keep consistent and provide the ability to keep exercise and movement an option for seniors. This not only helps them physically, but mentally especially in the more isolating days of the pandemic.