If you’re trying to choose an appropriate assisted living facility for yourself or an aging loved one, there are so many things to consider that it seems futile to read another article making recommendations about what you should look for in a center. However, today our team is here to help you consider how the majority of recommendations for having a fulfilling, happy stay in the assisted living center of your choice circle back to one thing: the level of appropriate physical activity offered to residents on a regular basis.
Benefits of Physical Activity for Seniors
The importance of exercise is hardly a secret – and it’s something that everyone should be conscious of as they age. Specific benefits exercise offers seniors in assisted living and elsewhere include:
- Improved strength: muscles that are used gain strength, even under light duty;
- Increased stamina: the axiom “use it or lose it” rings true. Those who engage in even limited activity will become more capable of physical activity over time;
- Better stability: one of the biggest risks to aging individuals is injury due to falling – by undertaking regular physical activity, you can improve the strength of your core, yielding better balance and stability; and,
- Enhanced flexibility: for those who’ve been inactive for a long while, flexibility can become a huge obstacle to becoming active again; however, deliberate, persistent activity can rebuild the elasticity in your muscles and joints over time.
Each of these components to physical fitness is important to those who are getting a older, as your independence is closely linked to your physical mobility – which is supported by exercise.
Recommended Activity Levels
Exercising regularly is the best way to preserve physical wellness, according to most experts. But did you realize that for seniors, “exercise and physical activity” aren’t limited to drudging through 30 minutes on the treadmill? For those 65 and older, the World Health Organization’s guidelines on physical activity include most leisure activities, from gardening to swimming, vacuuming to square dancing. This means it is relatively easy for many seniors to incorporate the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. However, the recommended 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity may be harder to come by if you’re only sweeping the floors.
Mental Activity Also Matters
Physical activities aren’t just beneficial to those hoping for lower blood pressure or a trimmer waistline. Increasingly, research shows that the benefits of physical activity extend to the mental wellbeing of seniors as well. More than this, it is important for seniors in assisted living centers to engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, puzzles, and word games, as well as socializing. Mental stimulation is beneficial not only to those who face dementia or other cognitive conditions, but also those who are simply facing a change in circumstances. Being socially and mentally active is just as vital to overall wellbeing for assisted living residents as getting a bit of physical activity every day.
How to Stay Active in Assisted Living
It would seem that the big question becomes how you can help someone keep active once they’ve settled into an assisted living facility. The answers here range from you dedicating time to helping the person get out and about, to ensuring you’ve chosen an assisted living center with a robust portfolio of activities that are pitched to the resident’s abilities and fitness level. Working with a dedicated care team and their allied health professionals, residents should be able to create a fitness plan and find the right sort of activities to match their existing capabilities and improve their overall fitness whatever their age.
When you are considering assisted living centers, look for facilities that publish an activity calendar that includes physical “out and about” type activities, and engagement opportunities for socializing. Movie nights, board game tournaments, excursions to local botanical gardens, volunteer opportunities in local elementary schools, swimming or golf clubs, and painting nights are all great examples of activities modern assisted living facilities offer that could provide excellent opportunity for physical and mental activity. The important thing is to build on the strengths your loved one has for increased wellness every day.
Technology is nearly touching every aspect of our lives, and assisted living is no exception. Below are some samples of assisted living related apps.