Older People and Functional Aging

Older people and functional aging

“You are only as old as you feel.” This is a cliché that we often see in the media. It seems superficial on its face, but it is actually a useful way to view the importance of activities and exercising for healthy older people.

There has been considerable research and anecdotal evidence that highlights the benefits of activity and exercise in helping seniors maintain functionality and enjoy life more. We are accustomed to determining older people’s abilities by their chronological age. Here is an example: “Sally is 88 years old, so she must need a lot of help to get around.”

An 88-year-old person who stays active, maintains a healthy diet, and does not have chronic disease will, most likely, function at a higher level than someone who does not share these characteristics. That is why it is more useful to view elderly people as individuals and not lump them into a stereotype based on chronologic age.

Elderly people can make important choices that enable them to optimize their functionality. Unfortunately, this is not true of all older people, as many have or have had serious injuries or illnesses that compromise their ability to function. That said, most elderly people can make important behavioral choices that will help them either maintain or improve functionality.

Activities and exercising can benefit seniors in three important ways.

  • Physiological Benefits – These include improvement of sleep quality, arthritis pain management, cardiovascular and pulmonary functioning, blood pressure, muscle strength and endurance, glucose levels, flexibility, and balance.
  • Psychological Benefits – These include improvement of cognitive functioning, mental health, stress levels, and skill development/maintenance.
  • Social Benefits – These include improvement of friendship development, maintenance of communication skills, feelings of empowerment, identification of new life roles, and intergenerational contact.

If activity and exercising are so important to the health of older people, then why don’t they just do it? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 26.9% of adults aged 65-74 and 35.3% of those aged 75 and older do not engage in any leisure-time activity.

There are a variety of reasons elderly people remain inactive, including

  • Lack of understanding of why it is important and what activities and exercises are most helpful.
  • Embarrassment over perceived inability to perform activities and fear of becoming injured.
  • Stereotypes that define older people as being incapable of productive activity.

Elderly people are most likely to change behaviors and try new activities if encouraged by significant others, such as adult children, friends, and physicians. However, seniors, like most people, rarely react well to people who “tell” them what to do.

Instead, showing a caring attitude, patience, and persistence will more often deliver better results. Careful repetition of the importance of activity and exercise, while finding creative ways to send the message, can be useful.

Also, if you want to arm yourself with the information needed to motivate an elderly parent or friend to remain active and exercise, take a look at this new e-book by clicking here.

Learn more about blog creator Steven Watson’s background by clicking here to access his Amazon Author’s Page.

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