February is Heart Month, and the best ways to control blood pressure and stay heart-healthy are diet and exercise.
Now, it’s not my place (or yours) to lecture your senior loved ones on what they eat, though the usual advice—more fiber, less fat and sugar—is good for all of us. So let’s talk about the hard part: exercise.
We all need to exercise more. But finding the opportunity, the energy and the motivation is never easy, even for younger folks. Getting Mom or Dad to engage in the amount of activity they need to stay healthy and strong can be a challenge.
Talking to the caregivers at our local senior home care agencies around the country, we’ve collected these general principles to keep more experienced bodies moving.
Tips for Encouraging Aging Parents to Exercise
Like I said, nobody likes to be lectured.
If you’re sure your senior loved one would benefit from a little more exercise, suggest opportunities for that. But don’t call it exercise. Exercise is hard. Exercise is boring. Exercise is the opposite of fun. Suggest fun things to do that include exercise. Maybe a trip to the park or the local zoo. Perhaps a walk to deliver flowers to a neighborhood friend who shoveled the driveway for them or has just welcomed a baby.
Think about giving the exercise a purpose beyond its obvious physical benefits.
None of us—unless maybe Cincinnati's 94-year old marathon legend, Mike Fremont—expects to do things as well as we did them years ago. But committing to even a limited level of activity can make a big difference in our heart health as well as our overall well-being.
If your parent used to enjoy swimming, for example, perhaps a water aerobics class is worth a try. If playing ball was more their thing, maybe a trip to the animal shelter to play fetch with some of the pets waiting for adoption could be the motivator they need.
Build It Into the Day-to-Day Routine
You’re probably familiar with the popularity of mall walking, both as an independent and an organized activity. But some people find walking to be boring unless they are focused on a specific destination. Some of our clients have had success with making it part of their daily routine. Instead of hitting the drive-through for coffee or iced tea, go to the mall and deliberately park on the opposite end of the complex. In addition to giving a purpose to your daily exercise, you’ll get a refreshing reward at the end.
Likewise, a trip to the grocery store can be a source of exercise if planned correctly. Many older seniors find browsing through a large supermarket to be not only fun and interesting, but the added support of the grocery cart handle can offer stability for those with mild balance issues.
Talk to the Doctor
There’s a reason all those self-help commercials you see on the weekends always advise you to “consult your physician” before starting any exercise program.
Just about everybody can benefit from a little more physical activity, but it’s important that we start at a level that suits our current health and physical conditioning. Make sure your loved one has a conversation with the doctor about their current level of activity and what they’re planning, asking for suggestions or modifications.
Click here to read tips for for improving doctor visits from the experts at Caring Hearts senior home care agencies.
Just because February is Heart Month doesn’t mean this is the only time of year to think about ways to improve our heart health and overall exercise routine. But it’s a good time to remember that staying in the best possible health is the surest way to preserve independence in old age and to continue to enjoy life for years to come.
For some other heart health tips, check out the resources provided by the American Heart Association.
And if you need assistance in keeping an elderly loved one active, give your neighborhood’s Caring Hearts a call. Each office is locally owned and operated by compassionate people with a passion for providing the best senior care. They can provide tips, or suggest a senior home care plan to fit your needs. Click here to find your location.