For facilities that care for the elderly, such as nursing homes and assisted living, encouraging residents to exercise is often a major struggle and responsibility can rest on both sides. For seniors, movement after long periods of rest can be very uncomfortable. Perhaps illness keeps motivation low, fear of injury keeps them from beginning, or it is difficult to know where to begin. On the other hand, some facilities aren’t able to provide the proper resources. They may not have the correct space, the equipment, or the funding to help their residents exercise. Whatever the case may be, one of the most important tools we have for improving the health of seniors is falling by the wayside as the ease of sitting mindlessly in front of a screen takes precedence.
Unfortunately, what seems to be the easiest route for seniors and the professionals who care for them, alike, is taking a toll on the futures of these individuals. A lot of us are gently floating through this foggy mindset that, of course, exercise is good for seniors. But this fog does not lend itself to the explosion of concrete understanding we need to comprehend just how important exercise is and it does not push us to take the action that is needed.
For a start, so many of us are ignorant of the real benefits of exercise and the list is constantly growing which can make it hard to keep up. Here are some generalized ways we know that exercise can make a difference.
|Benefits from Exercise||Problems from Immobility|
|Increases strength||Increases likelihood of injuries|
|Prevents or delays disease/illness||Increases likelihood of hospitalizations|
|Improves blood pressure||Increases likelihood of added meds|
|Decreases pain||Increases likelihood of moving to a facility|
|Increases in stability||Increases rigidity in joints|
|Helps to keep you independent||Decreases immune system|
|Lowers medical bills||Decreases bone density|
|Prevents falls||Decreases metabolism|
One fantastic new approach a nursing home in Denmark is taking to improve the amount of exercise their residents receive uses virtual reality to add appeal and interest to what can sometimes be a mundane activity. One of the ways in which this device is used is on a stationary bike. The bike is equipped with a screen that shows a virtual landscape. As the person pedals, the scene reacts – altering itself to match their ride. This nursing home in Denmark found an incredible increase in the interest to exercise among their residents and came away with very positive feedback on the whole experience.
The creators of these virtual reality programs for getting seniors up and moving are excited for the prospects these programs offer. There is quite a bit of creative room for them to play with different options. For instance, these programs will allow users to travel wherever they wish right from their residence. If they wanted to take a hike – they could access the scenery of the alps, all from their own treadmill. If they want to take a nice walk, they could see the sights of downtown Manhattan or San Francisco or the Australian Outback all from the comfort of their home.
Perhaps virtual reality among United States nursing homes is still a ways away. However, be on the lookout for these programs should they pop up here. Do a little research to learn more and express your interest in them when applicable. In the meantime, there are other ways to bring better access to exercise among senior communities. Many facilities offer free classes multiple times per week. These could include anything from yoga, Zumba, or aerobics, to meditation circles and walking clubs. Some have gym facilities or dance studios to provide the space. Make sure when choosing a facility that you look into their options for exercise and check the staff for personal trainers or teachers.
If you have an elderly loved one that needs help with mobility, exercise, and personal care, but is still living at home, consider hiring an in-home care agency like Vitra Health, Inc. A care agency will provide caregivers that can take care of personal needs and meet wellness goals such as increased mobility. To learn more about in-home care, click the link below.