Healthy Exercise Tips for Seniors in Senior Care Settings

Brandy Archie

Dr. Brandy Archie, OTD, OTR/L, CLIPP, CLVT

Exercise has many important benefits for seniors, and senior care facilities can assume an essential role in helping to facilitate regular and safe exercise sessions for residents. Exercise can support resident health and even improve safety.

The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

Raymond Dacillo, Director of Operations for C-Care Health Services, explains that physical activity is generally always beneficial for seniors who live in senior care facilities or in their homes.

“It especially helps those seniors with chronic or disabling issues to improve their stamina, muscle strength, maintains healthy bones, control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis. In addition to that, it also helps reduce anxiety, depression and improves the individual’s overall mood,” says Dacillo.

Dr. Brandy Archie, OTD, OTR/L, CLIPP, CLVT, is an occupational therapist and founding director of AccessAble Living. Dr. Archie says that it’s vital to add physical activity to seniors’ routines. “Often they are coming to the facility from living in a larger space than what their apartment is so just by virtue of that change many may be losing some built in exercise.”

Dr. Archie notes that exercise offers many benefits that are highly valuable for seniors. “Physical activity does many things for us including increase blood flow and oxygen saturation (which helps us think more clearly and have more energy), keeps our muscles toned (which keeps our endurance up so we can participate in the activities that we love) and helps us keep better balance for longer (which decreases our risk of falls and resulting consequences),” she says.

Strategies to Keep Seniors Active in Senior Care Settings

Senior care facilities can use multiple techniques to encourage residents to get and stay active. Dr. Archie recommends building in exercise through activity. “Most people don’t enjoy rote exercise like lifting weights but do it because they know it is good for them,” she explains. “You can get more exercise in, sometimes without even realizing it, through a well-planned task – which could be anything!

“For example, sitting and playing cards is good for social interaction, cognitive processing and passing the time but it takes little effort. But playing corn hole is still fun to do but can encourage standing, dynamic balance, social interaction and lends itself to being played outside which likely requires more walking to get to and is more COVID-friendly.”

Dacillo advocates for senior care facilities to allocate specific times to physical activities, which allows residents to establish a daily routine. He also notes that bringing in guests or rotating trainers can help to seniors to build more relationships while engaging in new activities.

Integrating group physical activity classes can help newer residents to make new friends and feel more inclined to participate, says Dacillo. He also suggests that staff in the facility alert trainers in advance about any chronic or disabling conditions a resident may have. This allows the trainer to plan a specific routine or plan alternative movements, which allows all residents to feel included in the class.

Exercise Safety Considerations

It’s also essential that facilities take steps to ensure resident safety during exercise sessions. “Be sure to have more than one person that’s a helper,” says Dr. Archie. “This allows for safety and encourages people to be more outgoing in their decisions on whether to stand or not. It also means more conversations can be facilitated more turns can be had and thus more participation and satisfaction from the residents.”

Dr. Archie also recommends doing activities outside as much as possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. When indoors, she suggests facilities focus on exercises or activities that naturally lend themselves to social distancing, like corn hole, walking groups, and badminton.

Getting regular exercise benefits seniors’ health, strength, balance, and more, and senior care facilities can play an integral role in promoting that exercise and physical activity. By reevaluating and reworking their exercise activities and programs, senior care facilities can contribute to their residents’ overall wellness.

Topics: Activities , Featured Articles , Resident Care