But aren’t old people supposed to sit around in rocking chairs all day, torturing the young with tales about how they walked 4 miles through a blizzard just to get to school?
In short, no. Numerous studies have shown that exercise reduces the risk of dying from certain cancers, heart disease, and stroke. It also reduces the symptoms of depression as well as mild cognitive impairment. What’s more is that regular exercise increases functional flexibility and strength-the qualities that allow Dad to do the everyday things that make independent living possible, from reaching into a high cabinet to shoveling a walkway. That’s why your caring for aging parent plan should include a safe and effective workout.
Take one step at a time.
Maybe the last time Dad exercised was the last time he mowed his lawn-15 years ago. When you’re caring for an aging parent, it’s critical for him or her to get regular exercise. The first step is making sure your loved one is healthy enough for a workout by talking to his or her doctor. The doctor may order an electrocardiogram (EKG), to find out if the body can withstand exercise.
Once Dad has the go-ahead from the doctor, remind your parent to go slowly. Dad doesn’t need to take up kickboxing or swim the English Channel to reap the benefits of a workout. For most seniors, a walk around the block is a good start toward a healthy elder care solution.
Teach an old dog new tricks.
A study by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that seniors who played Nintendo Wii exercise games for 35 minutes a day, three days a week had a reduced risk of depression. Exercise video games are proving so effective at improving fitness that nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers across the country are adding them to their elder care solution programs.
Because video game systems can be played at home, they can be an ideal elder care solution for seniors who stay inside the house. If you’re caring for aging parents at home, consider investing in one of these.
If video gaming doesn’t appeal to your aging parent, encourage him or her to take up a new exercise program. For instance, the ancient Chinese martial art Tai Chi has been shown to relieve pain and increase seniors’ range of motion.
Classes and workshops in Tai Chi or any other exercise can also encourage another important part of living well: social interaction. In fact, research has shown that building strong social connections can add a few years to a lifespan, making it an ideal elder care solution. As you’re caring for an aging parent, encourage him or her to reap the stronger body and increased social networks that come with group workouts.
Get in the game.
Don’t just sit there on your rear while your mom hoofs it around the block. Caring for yourself while caring for your aging parents is important for keeping your mind and body healthy. You’ll benefit from exercise’s stress-relieving qualities and build a healthier body in the process. Pick an activity you love, such as taking a hike or practicing yoga. Remember, when you’re healthy, you’ll be a better caregiver and a stronger part of your parent’s elder care solution.
Caring for aging parent plans can be challenging, from scheduling a doctor’s appointments to giving medication reminders. Make sure exercise doesn’t slip through the cracks-it’s an important part of any family’s elder care solution.