How to Get an Elderly Parent to Exercise

To lead longer, more productive lives, seniors need to remain active. However, as arthritis, decreasing energy levels, lethargy, and inertia become increasingly apparent in the elderly, their children and others who love, care for and are involved with them on an ongoing basis, are often challenged to think up ways to motivate older people to keep moving.

Parents sometimes need to be convinced of the necessity to remain active. It is helpful to leave reading material around stressing the benefits of exercise. Family members might mention activities and accomplishments of other older individuals in the community, to help seniors realize that not all the elderly lead passive and sedentary lifestyles.

It is imperative to get a doctor’s approval before encouraging seniors to adopt or participate in any new form of exercise. Start out slowly, and be guided by their comfort level, enjoyment, and enthusiasm for each unique experience. You’ll soon be able to discern which ones they prefer and are anxious to repeat.

The ultimate goal is to find those they will participate in independently, without your presence and encouragement.

Here are suggestions for activities parents might find enjoyable as well as health-enhancing:

  • Shopping. Introduce them to a new mall or specialty shop. As they explore, they may forget about aches and pains.

  • Gardening. It’s satisfying and an excellent form of exercise involving walking, bending, reaching, pulling and digging.

  • Encourage them to join the local senior center. The social support will encourage them to keep in motion. There are dances, day trips, games and activities designed for seniors, and group celebrations for holidays, birthdays and other special occasions.

  • Outdoor games have an added advantage of getting the family together in the fresh air. Challenge the youngsters to a friendly game of croquet, shuffleboard, lawn darts, mini-golf or horseshoes.

  • Seniors who read may enjoy joining a book club and discussing favorite volumes and authors. They could attend book signings and later enjoy a relaxing coffee and stimulating conversation with friends.

  • Introduce them to a new hobby: jewelry-making, pottery, bird watching or photography, all of which involve gentle exercise while stimulating mental and creative faculties as well.

  • Organize family tours to places of interest in the area: museums, art galleries, science exhibits, concerts, movies, or to local seasonal or cultural events.

  • Get a family membership to the YMCA. Most have pools with directed exercises for seniors. Water aerobics provides a full-body workout without undue stress on aging joints and muscles.

  • There are yoga and tai-chi classes geared especially for seniors. They improve balance, promote flexibility, calm the mind and reduce stress.

  • If mobility is a problem, there are chair-based exercises available on DVDs and the web. Many are done to the accompaniment of happy music.

When parents complete an activity which gets them up and moving, be sure to acknowledge and praise their accomplishment. Everyone likes to support and recognition, and this will encourage further efforts.

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