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100 is the new 80 – move it or lose it

20 February 2012
Bonnie Sandler S.W., The Senior Times – February 2012

Some newer residences have fitness rooms with exercise machines. Unfortunately, I have yet to see a resident in any of these rooms. The idea is great, but many residents have not seen the inside of a gym for years. They might not know how to operate an elliptical trainer.

However, when exercise classes geared toward residents are offered, eager participants will be found. In these cases, individuals are encouraged to do what they can, whether it be chair exercises or tai chi. The idea is to keep moving. For those who have let go of the “can’t be seen in a bathing suit” mantra, joining an aqua fitness class is a fabulous way of keeping active without placing too much stress on one’s body.

When visiting potential residences, it is as important to study the activity schedule as it is to stay for a meal to evaluate food and service. Fitness activities should be offered regularly. Research the times of the activities—if you are not a morning person, make sure that some activities are offered in the afternoon.

We have harsh winters and many seniors stay indoors for a good part of the season. Check whether the residence has room to walk around, whether fitness is encouraged.

Some residents have physical problems that prevent them from fully participating in certain activities, but if one can get to the dining room, even by wheelchair, one should be able to find part of an exercise program that they can master. For people with mobility issues, rolling their feet in circles or moving their arms to music are important. For residents with cognitive issues, staff should encourage participation. The popular adage “use it or lose it” applies.

Excuses are easy to find. Sitting around playing bingo may keep your mind working and have you enjoying the company of others, but taking care of the whole person includes keeping your body in motion. I am surprised by residences that only offer one morning activity and one afternoon activity, each lasting about an hour, especially when neither includes physical activity.

A Senior Times column on the need for a full activity program convinced the director of one residence to increase his budget for recreation.

We say 60 is the new 50. I say 100 is the new 80.

Many years ago, as a single parent with a young child, I vacationed at the same resort as my parents. Not only did I love their company, but the offer of free babysitting was too sweet to pass up. This plan meant that I stayed at a spa catering to people who were 55 and over. I stood out like a sore thumb with my young daughter.

This did not prevent me from joining the aqua fitness classes, and I remember the energetic leader shouting her daily routine with “one (foot) in front and two in position” as she got everyone moving around and smiling. At the time, I thought I was in a class with seniors.

I don’t know at what age one should be considered a senior, but in my world it starts at 80. I hope these spas exist when I reach my 80s. Maybe by then 120 will be the new 100.

We read the occasional story of a senior taking up a training program and running marathons.

Your body is yours—be good to it and feed it with regular physical activity, whether it is chair exercises or marathon running.

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Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775