Considerations about Fitness for the Elderly
Fitness for the elderly is just as important as fitness for the rest of us. Although we don’t often think of those in the silver-haired set exercising rigorously, physical fitness continues to be important even late into life. In fact, many would argue that what makes the difference between a happy active retiree and one who has one foot in the grave is how fit they are. However, before you start trying to get grandma and grandpa to run sprints with you tomorrow morning, there are certain considerations that you should keep in mind.
There is a Wide Range of Fitness Levels in the Elderly Population
First, you should keep in mind that just as in the general population as a whole, the elderly population too has a wide range of fitness levels. Whereas one eighty year old may be able to go for a walk around the block with no difficulty, another eighty year old may have difficulty just making it down the hall of her retirement community for lunch. This means that in order to set up a program of fitness for the elderly person to succeed, you must be ready to consider individual fitness levels.
If you are planning on designing a general program that is meant for more than one individual, than your best bet is to meet with those that may have an interest in your program first so that you can inform yourself about the general abilities of those who might be interested in your exercise program.
Know your Audience
The other consideration that you might want to keep in mind is that many of the very aged were born in a period of time where the kind of exercise that we do today was mostly limited to the schoolyard. The idea of going to a gym and doing crunches may be totally foreign to those who were born during and before the Depression. People simply did not engage in those sorts of activities once they were adults.
In order to overcome this cultural/historical obstacle you may need to wrap the notion of exercise in something that they might find more identifiable and interesting. One of the best ways of doing this is to disguise exercise as another activity, like dancing or “hiking.” Though it may seem strange for some elderly for people to go on jogs, they may actually find it interesting to take a walk up into the hills and check out the city from height.
Of course, whenever you are dealing with the elderly, you always want to make sure that you check the medical requirements for those you are dealing with in order to make sure that you are not exposing them to undue threats. Furthermore, if you are going take them beyond the confines of the institutions in which many of them are housed, you want to make sure to bring someone whose medical training will allow them to assist you should one of the old people in your charge have a medical issue.
You should also avoid unnecessarily straining those who are under your protection. Keep sessions relatively short so that no one gets overstrained or injured. Don’t push those who don’t want to participate or who claim to be tired. Whenever anyone looks like he or she is overstraining, make sure that you have that individual take a break. Remember that as we get older it is easy to overestimate our current abilities when remembering how strong and fit we once were. Fitness for the elderly is a noble goal and should be embarked upon gradually. Good luck!