Living and Aging Well

Staying active is crucial for older adults’ health

Column by Deni Jacobs
Posted 2/2/16

As you grow older, an active lifestyle is more important than ever. Regular engagement in activities can help boost energy, maintain your independence, and manage symptoms of illness or pain.

With many baby boomers already retired or approaching …

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Living and Aging Well

Staying active is crucial for older adults’ health

Posted

As you grow older, an active lifestyle is more important than ever. Regular engagement in activities can help boost energy, maintain your independence, and manage symptoms of illness or pain.

With many baby boomers already retired or approaching retirement, it is critical to consider activities that help maintain or achieve optimal levels of health. “What is good for the body is good for the brain,” is a saying we frequently hear and it rings true even when you reach the golden years. How we live our lives can affect how we age.

Recreation facilities provide services and amenities such as SilverSneakers fitness classes, tai chi, aqua aerobics, balance improvement, Arthritis Foundation programs and various other services for active aging adults. Some facilities offer one-on-one aquatic therapy training, which is the use of water (or warm water) as a way of improving health while coping with disease or physical discomfort. Water relieves the effects of gravity on the body, giving a sense of weightlessness. This weightlessness alleviates the painful stress on joints or muscles while also providing resistance. The warm water in a therapy pool can also stimulate the touch receptors on the skin, increasing blood circulation and releasing tight muscles.

It is important that older adults participate in regular physical activities. Studies suggest that exercise can lower the risk of dementia by 50 percent to 60 percent, and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 60 percent (Eckmann, 2011). Other fun activities beneficial to active adults are card games such as bridge, cribbage and euchre. Skills required for these games include concentration, strategizing and working with a teammate to triumph over an opponent. A study conducted at the University of California-Berkeley showed that playing bridge regularly appeared to be tied to players’ immune systems producing more T-cells, which the body uses to fight infection. Other benefits of playing card games include keeping the brain stimulated and alert and keeping the memory active (Smith, 2010).

Starting or maintaining regular activities can be a challenge as you get older. You may feel discouraged by illness, ongoing health problems, or concerns about injuries or falls. A CTRS (certified therapeutic recreation specialist) is a qualified provider of therapeutic recreation, or a personal trainer can help get you started with the appropriate activities.

Therapeutic recreation, also known as recreational therapy, is a process that uses recreation as a means of treatment intended to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in everyday life activities. Therapists work with clients to improve their health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the limitations and restrictions caused by their illness or disabling condition. A CTRS can provide one-on-one support and supervision for individuals requiring assistance during traditional recreation programs on an as-needed basis and may lead various programs, classes and special events.

Participating in programs and movement activities can lead to benefits in everyday living such as living independently at home longer, walking to the grocery store to pick up groceries, or even taking fewer prescription medications. Common goals for active adults include social interaction, cognitive stimulation, learning new skills and opportunities for self-expression through crafts. Participants can also acquire a reduction in anxiety, stress and depression, decreased focus on pain, and increase in independence and self-esteem.

Here in Douglas County, there are many community centers where you will find a variety of recreational opportunities for active aging adults including pools, fitness rooms, and group exercise classes. Affordable short-term and long-term memberships are available for individuals, or you can pay as you go with daily admission passes. For more information or to find a CTRS near you, contact your local parks and recreation department or senior center.

Deni Jacobs holds the therapeutic/senior programs coordinator II position for the Parker Parks and Recreation Department.

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