Keeping Active Through Your Senior Years: Both Mentally and Physically

Keeping Active Through Your Senior Years: Both Mentally and Physically

Americans are living longer than ever, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2005, the average American life expectancy reached 78 years-of-age, an increase from 76 years in 1995.

One component of this lengthening life expectancy is the exercising of both the body and mind. Scientific research shows that continuous physical and mental activity during the senior years promotes a healthy lifestyle and, therefore, longevity.

Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle during adulthood not only prevents cardiovascular disease, but also substantially expands the life expectancy for men and women, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine 2005.

Living an active life is key to keeping the body and mind in a healthy condition, which has a positive effect on living longer. Maintaining activity can also help prevent or minimize development of Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses.

For example, a study published in the February 13, 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, on average, those who said they frequently take part in mentally stimulating activities were 47 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who rarely do so. The study also concluded that keeping your mind active can slow the rate at which you lose mental ability.

At Right at Home of Portland, we understand the importance of such research, and have developed the following tips for older adults:

Exercising The Mind

What seniors can do to maintain an active, independent and healthy lifestyle:

* Learn new activities and try new hobbies
* Play memory games, such as crossword puzzles
* Read a novel, write in a journal or join a book club
* Practice using your opposite hand over your dominant one
* Stay social, and informed on current events, by interacting with friends and family

Staying Physically Active

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services- Administration on Aging, one in three men and one in two women are not physically active. Researchers know that physical activity promotes good blood flow to the brain and encourages new brain cell growth, which may lower the risk of developing dementia-related diseases.

Remaining physically active could be as simple as using personal strength to rise from a chair rather than using the assistance of a cane or walker. When appropriate, such exercise can be achieved safely with the supervision of a professional caregiver. The following are three suggested forms of basic exercise. Always check with a physician or healthcare professional before participating in any physical activities.

* Endurance Exercises – Endurance exercises are activities that increase heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. Examples of moderate endurance activities for the average older adult include: swimming and water aerobics; brisk walks; cycling; and even everyday activities such as gardening.
* Strength Exercises – Strength exercises build muscle and allow seniors to do more activities on their own. Strength exercises also increase metabolism, helping to keep a senior’s weight and blood pressure stable. This is very important because obesity and diabetes are major health problems for older adults. Examples of strength exercises include arm raises to strengthen shoulder muscles and chair stands to strengthen the abdomen and thighs.
* Balance Exercises – Balance exercises help prevent a common problem in seniors – falls. According to the National Institute on Aging, U.S. hospitals see 300,000 broken hip admissions every year due to falls- often resulting in disability and loss of independence. Balance exercises include standing on one foot or rising from a chair without the use of hands.

For more ideas on how to stay physically and mentally fit, visit these resource sites:

1. AARP –
2. Caring News Website:
3. National Institutes of Health
4. Alzheimer’s Prevention Help Guide
5. Right at Home

Source: Right at Home Managing Director, 503-574-3674
For more information:, 503-574-3674

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