Exercise is an important part of healthy aging. From lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke to improving balance and supporting fall prevention, exercise is vital to staving off illness and staying well. And it doesn’t have to be boring. Senior living communities offer a variety of activities to keep older adults active and mobile and to promote successful aging. Following are seven examples, ranging from energetic water aerobics to relaxing yoga sessions.
On Monday and Friday mornings, residents at Royal Oaks often get together to play chair volleyball. Within just three months of its introduction, the class became so popular that staff expanded it from one day per week to two. Residents enjoy the chance to build upper-arm strength and increase range of motion in their shoulders, says Donna Cazares, the community’s director of fitness. “Residents keep score,” she says. “It’s something they can do without fear of falling.”
The Royal Oaks Walking Group meets each Thursday to take a brisk 5-mile walk along the Duarte Bike Trail. The group members enjoy strolling through the senior living community and nearby town. They also walk to a Starbucks or neighborhood diner on Wednesdays. Cazares created the program to help residents reap the benefits of walking, which include improved balance, flexibility and metabolism. “The more you walk, the longer you will be able to do so without the help of a cane to aid mobility,” says Cazares.
Regents Point transformed a picnic area north of the main dining room into a professional-grade putting green in 1989. Originally funded by residents who raised $40,000 to establish the green, it has since become the place where residents can practice their swing when they can’t make it to one of the many courses surrounding the Irvine community. But it’s especially popular in the late spring and summer, when the community kicks off a five-game tournament series. There’s a small prize—$5—for a hole in one. “But we haven’t had to pay that in a while,” laughs resident Paul Kroesen. “We have a good time. Anyone can come out to play.”
Residents at Redwood Terrace are honing their bowling skills while forming new friendships—all thanks to a video game. They meet each week to play several rounds of video bowling on the Nintendo Wii. The game requires users to stand and swing a handheld controller in the same motion as if they were bowling with a real ball in an alley. In addition to bonding, the experience helps community members work on hand-eye coordination and get some basic exercise. Resident Ellen Gifford, a former league bowler, says she feels the burn while playing the game. “I go through the whole action of bowling,” she says.
Last November, residents at Rosewood and The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens went head-to-head to see which community could log the most miles on a CyberCycle in one month. These recumbent bicycles for older adults have interactive internet-connected computer screens that can talk with other CyberCycles across the country. Rosewood resident Bill May biked the most miles out of anyone at the community—321 miles over the 30-day period. “When you first get started, don’t overdo it,” says May. “The trick is to just get on and start out slow, keeping your pace. Don’t burn yourself out right away; I learned that the hard way. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself going for a lot longer and lot further.”
At The Terraces of Los Gatos, residents look forward to participating in monthly challenges organized by Judy Hackett, the community’s enrichment coordinator. One of the most popular events is the annual 2-mile walk across San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The dozen community members who recently participated—three are over 90—soak up the views, chat and encourage each other along the way. Residents handle the hike in their own style and at their own pace. Some aim to complete the hike in 30 minutes, walking briskly with intent, while others enjoy the scenery, using canes and walkers to assist. “I was going to complete this hike no matter what,” says resident Ed Shaw. “I’m so glad that I did it.”
Fall Prevention: How Senior Living Can Decrease Falls
Senior living can help individuals overcome the fear of falling.