Motivating Older Adults to Engage in Fitness Programs
Posted on September 9, 2014 by Sulekha Zaug
September is Active Aging Month, and as senior living communities are busy preparing special events and celebrations, it’s important to focus on encouraging residents to regularly participate in health and fitness programs. Motivating older adults to maintain a program of regular exercise is a difficult challenge. Every person comes with his/her own preconceptions, fears and beliefs; but older adults may also come with health challenges and a mindset that’s not easy to change. As we continually update and customize activity programming, how can we adapt fitness programs and still make them fun without sacrificing the quality?
At Atria on the Hudson, I created a program that is not only the most physically demanding, but also the most highly attended exercise program we offer. “Sync or Swim” is a 45-minute aquatic class featuring aerobics, yoga, weight training, stretching and flexibility, dance and synchronized swimming. Residents begin the class by elevating their heart rate with cardio exercises. Then, they move on to step aerobics and more advanced exercises before working on range of motion and strength training with water weights. After about 30 minutes of continuous exercise, we work on a synchronized swimming routine with the goal of ultimately performing for the community and families. Lastly, we cool down with aqua yoga.
The exercise component is difficult, but the use of water creates a weightless feeling that helps residents forget about physical challenges. The synchronized swimming aspect creates a bond between residents where they have to work together. They are all trying something they have never done before and experiencing how learning is lifelong. A successful exercise program should have gradual movement progression with short- and long-term goals. It should also be easily adaptable depending upon each participant’s needs. Most importantly, it should facilitate empowerment from participants and promote socialization. Just a slight variation on a general exercise class can make the difference for an older adult. Assess their interests and needs; give them a sense of purpose and ask what they want; and introduce new components and goals. Let’s get older adults moving and continue to be innovators and ambassadors for active aging!