Senior wellness trends and myths to watch for in 2017

As we wrap up 2016 and look ahead to New Year’s fitness resolutions, Buckner Parkway Place wellness coordinator Rachel Ramirez shares today’s top trends in senior living wellness, as well as the most common myths to be aware of when it comes to senior fitness.

Trends

1. Personalized fitness

Personalized fitness programs have always been key to a senior adult’s fitness success, but today’s technology makes it easier for residents to track their individual progress in real-time. At Buckner, we use Technogym, a software that loads each resident’s individual workout plan into a system and tells the resident exactly which exercises to do, how many repetitions to perform and with what amount of weight. As a wellness coordinator, this move toward individualized fitness tracking is especially exciting for me because the resident gets to take full responsibility for their success.

2. Flexibility training

Many wellness experts thought yoga and tai chi would be wildly popular with senior adults because of the emphasis on balance and stability. However, what we’ve found is that most residents prefer this
“flexibility training” to be integrated into already existing exercise programs. Now, every exercise class we offer incorporates balance work, which dramatically reduces the risk of falls. These classes increase a senior’s range of motion but do so in an exercise context with which they already feel comfortable.

3. Wearable fitness

About 20-25 percent of Parkway Place residents wear Fitbits or pedometers, and this number will likely rise significantly in coming years as the baby boomer generation, already a very physically active generation, begins joining senior living communities. Wearable fitness is uniquely motivating because it gives residents a competitive reason to be active. One particular resident, Aaron Mendoza, makes it his personal goal to walk 6,000 steps a day and says his daily walks dramatically improve his mood.

Myths

1. Staying sedentary reduces risk of falling

Falling is the primary fear we see among residents, and rightfully so. It’s the leading cause of all fatal and nonfatal injuries for aging Americans. What most don’t realize, though, is that staying sedentary actually increases risk of another fall. It’s the worst thing you could do if you’re trying to prevent falling. Remaining active with even just a little movement each day helps increase bone density and rebuild muscle mass, which keeps balance aligned and reduces likelihood of falling.

2. Limited mobility means limited exercise  

Oftentimes after an injury or surgery, senior adults experience a period of limited mobility, be it short-term or long-term, where they may be confined to a wheelchair or require a walker. The common thought is that these limitations automatically eliminate exercise opportunities. Not so! Almost all fitness classes and programs include a wide array of modifications based on a resident’s physical needs.  

3. Seniors can’t build strength

While it’s true that adults can’t increase their muscle mass after reaching a certain age, they can build back muscle strength after an injury. Senior adults won’t see drastic changes or start pumping obscene amounts of iron, but with steady repetition and patient dedication, residents can expect to notice an increase in strength, even if the change is simply increasing dumbbell weight by one or two pounds.

Watching these residents maximize their physical capabilities and helping them achieve their goals has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Some of the most physically fit are actually the oldest residents in our community, but you’d never know it! They teach me every day to never give up and always make the most of life. What a privilege and a gift.

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