Older, wiser, fitter, BETTER!
Older, wiser, fitter, BETTER! When was the last time you saw an octogenarian racing down the street in full jogging gear? Granted, it’s not a common sight – but it’s not unheard of. Take Fauja Singh, The Turbaned Tornado, for inspiration – this guy is 105 years old. He took up running aged 81, ran his first marathon at 89 and ended up completing the London Marathon five times as well as similar events in Toronto and New York. Although he’s retired from competitive events, he still continues to run regularly for charity and pleasure. And he’s 105.
I’ll pause for a moment to let you process that information because to gain anything from the rest of this article, you need to know and believe that exercise into old age isn’t a mythical ideal. It’s real. And what’s more, it makes you live longer, feel happier and stay stronger and healthier in your later years.
And if you were still in any doubt about the value of exercise into your autumnal phase, the medical arguments for keeping on the move are persuasive, to say the least.
The medical bit
Remaining active lowers the risks of dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, obesity and hypertension. Following a sedentary lifestyle leads to loss of bone mass and muscle strength – whereas active day-to-day habits slow the pace of age-related degeneration. Focusing on physical mobility, strength and flexibility results in older people holding on to their independence for longer, which is what most of us fear losing the most.
Still not convinced?
How about the energy boost, improved cognitive function and enhanced mood a burst of activity brings? The positives just keep stacking up. Even those managing symptoms of pain or illness can benefit from elevated activity levels as it enables your body to cope better with the fallout.
What can you do?
Getting older doesn’t have to mean adopting a sedentary lifestyle with little exercise. Those with limited physical mobility can embrace a new fitness regime as well, there are no barriers to elderly fitness because there are different levels of exercise depending on how physical you want to, or can be.
Increasingly more and more elderly people are discovering the benefits of keeping fit. Exercise is something that’s good for everybody, whatever your age, but many people lose the habit once they reach their mature years. This is a real shame because keeping active with regular exercise is proven to be a power-boost for the elderly.
And this is why initiatives such as Oomph are so valuable and rewarding. This award-winning social enterprise is the UK’s largest provider of fun exercise programmes aimed at the elderly in a care setting. By giving active, fun classes in elderly care homes and community hubs, Oomph hand back to older people the joy of movement. They also offer training to care staff so they are able to deliver appropriate exercises on a regular basis to residents, adding an enriching extra dimension to care home life. This person-centred, pro-active approach leads to improved physical mobility, more social interaction and increased mental stimulation. In turn, Care Home support staff report higher levels of job satisfaction, knowing they are delivering something that makes a difference to those in their care. Care Home Managers should also note the positive benefits of such initiatives to their CQC profiles.
Pitching it right
The key to exercise for the elderly is pitching it at the right level. Anything too strenuous will be hard to sustain on a regular basis – which is the ideal we are aiming for. Traditional exercises such as bowls, simple walking, swimming or chair exercises all have valuable roles to play in a senior’s activity programme. Many elderly residents love to dance, and exercise to favourite songs is often a winning combination. Tai Chi and Yoga have a wide range of gentle exercises that can be adapted to suit those with restricted movement.
For silver tech-heads, investing in health monitoring wearables such as Fitbit sharpens up a person’s appetite for exercise – once they see how much they are (or aren’t) moving about, they can get to work on setting achievable targets – great for boosting motivation and focus in those who may be reluctant to take that first step towards fitness.
Maybe you are living independently and want to continue doing so for as long as possible? Or perhaps you are a Care Home Manager looking to improve the health and well-being of your residents? Whether you follow your own fitness path or choose organised programmes such as Oomph, the benefits of introducing fitness and activity into later-life are clear. When physical inactivity is the leading cause of preventable deaths, the obvious solution is to – get moving!
Okay, so who wants to join me on a gentle walk for starters? Who knows where it could lead…