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Fit for life – useful tips for keeping older people fitter

We all know ( or are constantly reminded) that exercise at any age is good for both the brain and the body.   It can be hard encouraging Mum and Dad off the sofa particularly as they become more frail.   But the healthier and fitter they are, the longer they will remain independent, and hopefully in better health.    Walking the dog may have become a bit of a chore,  and the prospect of keeping the garden under control can be daunting so we’ve come up with a few ideas which might help.

Something is better than nothing

Try and encourage every day exercise, which perhaps won’t feel like exercise!  If the papers and milk are usually delivered, maybe a walk to the local shop every day to collect them instead would be an idea – also a great way to get out of the house;   the dog might have been used to marathon adventures, but more frequent, shorter walks would do just as well;   the garden doesn’t need to be groomed to within an inch of its life – just a little bit every day will most likely keep it up to speed;  what about a bird feeder – those nuts and seeds aren’t going to replenish themselves,  plus bird watching is a great way to engage the brain from the comfort of the kitchen or the sitting room.

Trips with Treats

Visits to local places of interest from National Trust properties, to locations with lovely views or points of interest will offer a great day out.   A gentle wander combined with a picnic or afternoon tea can be a refreshing change of scene, as well as a bit of exercise.

Proper Exercise

Swimming, aquaerobics, bowls,  dancing,  the local health club/swimming baths or gym will most likely offer classes and courses, or at the least specific times during the week when they actively encourage older visitors.   If your parent has to join a membership in order to participate, they may be a bit daunted by the paperwork – medical conditions etc – so it might be as well to visit the membership person with them.  But where do you find these activities? Of course there are many clubs and classes to choose from, but Agespace have taken a look around to see what types of classes are available just for the elderly.

  • AgeUK throughout the country organise activities such as dancing, exercise classes etc. On their website they provide good advice on which types of exercise might most appropriate and beneficial to you.  If you don’t want to go to an exercise class Age UK have produced instructional DVDs to use at home.
  • YMCA provide lots of classes for the elderly including swimming, dancing, Zumba and cycling. Quite often there is a social after the classes where you can socialise and get to know your class members.
  • Specialist suppliers include Oomph!   Oomph! is an award-winning social enterprise dedicated to enhancing the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of older adults.  They work with residential and community care organisations delivering exercise classes for everyone including those who can only exercise while seated.
  • Inspired by Strictly Come Dancing, Green Candle delivers weekly dance workshops for elderly people. They have sessions for both active older people (with relatively high level of fitness) as well as for frail older people (seated dance workshops); they also work in hospital rehabilitation wards with patients recovering from falls, surgery, strokes etc; as well as in residential homes, sheltered housing and day centres where people may be at risk of isolation.

During the summer exercise always seems easier, so if you can encourage your parents to get going in the summer maybe they’ll stick with it during the winter.   We all know the attraction of the sofa and a bit of Strictly on a dark winter afternoon!  Good luck.

There are lots more classes out there – Do you know any organisations providing exercise classes?   Do you have any other tips for keeping healthy in old age?  Share your thoughts in Age Space Forum.