As your parents have aged, have you noticed a change in their activity or recreation pursuits? It is common for older adults to adapt their social calendars and physical exercise routines to meet the needs of their bodies. Chronic pain or other conditions can make once active adults become less active in their senior years. However, if your loved one is struggling to keep up with an active and engaged lifestyle, there are still plenty of ways they can move their body, connect with friends, and live a healthy life.
Why activity and engagement are important
Active older adults are healthy older adults. Engaged and connected older adults are happy older adults. Research has proved these points again and again, but unfortunately, it can still seem impossible to coax your aging parent out of their home to visit a friend or to take a walk in the fresh air.
Instead of giving up, try discussing the health benefits of staying active and engaged as you encourage your aging loved one to incorporate more physical and mental activity into their daily routine. For example, according to the Surgeon General, regular physical activity can build flexibility and strength, reduce the chance of falling, and even reduce feelings of anxiety or depression in older adults.
Seniors can also suffer from isolation and feelings of loneliness. This perceived lack of a support system and connection with peers can lead to increased anxiety and depression, and can even accelerate the symptoms of dementia.
Fortunately, seniors don’t need to run marathons and join a daily social club in order to get the benefits of increased activity and connection. Incorporating more activity and engagement into their regular routine can be easier than you may think.
Ways to keep your aging parents active and engaged
Here are just a few ways that you can encourage your aging loved one to try something new when it comes to activity and engagement.
On your next visit, take a walk together.
A simple walk around the neighborhood is a wonderful way to get exercise, breathe in fresh air, and alleviate a sense of cabin fever.
Find a senior exercise program in the area.
Many park districts and senior centers offer exercise groups tailored to older adults. Find one and encourage your loved one to attend, even offering to pay for the first month. These classes are not only physical activity, but also foster friendships.
Offer to host a coffee date.
Your senior loved one may be missing out on friendship simply because of transportation issues. Offer to pick up your aging parent’s friend on the way to your next visit and play hostess while the two catch up.
Teach your loved one how to video call.
Thanks to cell phones and free apps, your aging loved one can now chat with friends and family in real time. Take the time to teach your loved one how to use this technology and set up times to chat with one another.
When trying to find a hobby or activity that your loved one may enjoy, take a look at what they used to love to do and then work on adapting that activity for any current obstacles or challenges. For example, does Mom need larger crocheting hooks so that she can see better, or does Dad need a magnifier to keep up with his favorite magazine? If you are stumped for adaptations, talk to your loved one’s doctor or consult with an occupational therapist for other ideas customized to your loved one’s specific needs.
Hit the internet.
Thanks to the internet, there is now a way to quickly find people with similar interests. Do a search to find a local club that your loved one may enjoy. Try a Veteran’s Club, Book Club, Birdwatching Club, or Gardening Club—you are only limited by your imagination and your interests; chances are high you will find your loved one a new group to try.
Encourage senior living options.
Senior living communities offer residents an active, connected, and healthy lifestyle. While your loved one may be safe living at their home alone, they are not able to take part in the wellness amenities offered in most premier senior living communities. Residents in senior living communities are able to attend events held right down the hall, trips to explore neighboring towns, group exercise classes, and many other activities. It is worth it to take a tour and even join in for an activity (or meal) or two!
Staying active and connected in retirement may seem like a challenge at first, but there are many resources and professionals ready to keep your loved one healthy and happy. Take a look at our Recreation in Retirement resource to find out more tips for how to support your loved one’s efforts to stay active in retirement years.