Did You Know How Exercise Can Benefit Seniors?



Did You Know How Exercise Can Benefit Seniors?


Adopting a regular workout routine can help you combat the effects of aging.  It can also help sharpen your mind, maintain your youthful vitality & even enhance your joy!  We know the benefits of exercise & physical activity, but how safe is exercise for seniors? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0401/p425.html, almost everyone can benefit in some way from more physical activity or exercise. It can also help to alleviate pain & allow better mobility & even extend one’s independence.



As we grow older, our bodies tend to slow down making it harder for the body to repair itself, but the good news is that moderate physical activity is good for everyone, despite age and ability levels. For most of us, the benefits of exercising regularly far outweigh the risks associated with it.


How Physical Activity Works to Our Advantage


It’s a known fact that having regular exercise in your daily routine provides huge health benefits, including managing blood pressure & blood sugar, better joint and bone health, reduced amounts of lipids in the blood, & even long-term preservation of neuro-cognitive function.  Additional positive effects include:


  • Helps to Support Stronger Bones. Higher bone density reduces the risk of osteoporosis and lowers the risk of falls & broken bones. Research shows that strength training can dramatically reduce bone loss, restore bones, and contribute to less bone fractures and better balance. https://www.everydayhealth.com/senior-health/osteoporosis/6-exercises-strong-bones/
  • Helps Protect Against Chronic Conditions. If you have had a diagnosis of a chronic disease, incorporating a daily physical regiment can minimize some of your symptoms. For example, exercise is vital for helping those with chronic conditions like Parkinson’s disease & dementia to maintain their coordination and balance in order to extend their functional independence.
  • Helps to Improve Cardiovascular & Respiratory Function. Having strong lungs & airways as well as a healthy heart & vascular system keeps us healthy. Exercise helps us by lowering the risk of heart disease while reducing blood pressure, which in turn allows the body to function more efficiently.
  • Helps Gastrointestinal Function. Your metabolism is boosted & your body can eliminate its’ waste with regular exercise. If you suffer from slow digestion & constipation, physical activity can be an ideal way to keep your digestive health on track.
  • Helps to Boost Immune Function. A strong healthy body can fight off disease & infection more quickly and easily. Recovery from an illness will take less time and less of a toll on the body if the person exercises regularly.




A consistent exercise schedule can decrease mortality and age-related morbidity in older adults. In addition, seniors who exercised routinely experienced improvements in functional balance & reach which reduced the participants’ fears of falling.


What Physical Activities can People with Limited Abilities do?


There are people in every age group that have physical abilities which limit them in exercises, whether by injury, medical conditions or general frailty. These people must exercise a little more carefully than others, but they can adapt by learning exercise techniques that will improve their strength and ability, with proper instruction. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to the risk of illness, obesity and falls, so exercise is even more important for those with limited abilities.


Trained professionals can supervise people with certain limitations in a group exercise class, by helping to modify each movement for the individuals, as well as offer an entire regimen for specific improvements even with a person’s specific situation. Some excellent low impact exercises are yoga, swimming & water aerobics. Local senior centers and YMCA’s are great places to start when looking for exercise programs that help with unique challenges.


If you or a loved one is recovering from recent surgery, illness or injury and requires rehabilitation before getting involved in a routine exercise, consider Virginia Health Rehab.  We offer comprehensive rehab services in our outpatient facility in Port Warwick, as well as on-site services at each of our communities.  Visit www.virginiahealthrehab.com.


Should you require more extensive services, our home health division, Virginia Health Home Care, can provide the help you need to increase your stability & flexibility at home.  Visit us at www.virginiahealthhomecare.com.


One benefit of physical activity & exercise is the social aspect & comradery that are built by working out together, or as a class.  Most independent or assisted living communities have fitness centers. The Arbors at Port Warwick, our independent living community, has a fitness center as well as other amenities.  Our assisted living communities, The Huntington and The Hamilton also offer a wellness center, exercise classes & a full social activity calendar. Visit www.vahs.com to find out more.


As with anything new, please consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen or resuming one. Your doctor can make recommendations on what physical activities would work best for you or your loved one.



When Should My Parents Stop Driving?

When Should My Parents Stop Driving?

How do you know when it’s time for your parents to stop driving? It’s such a tough subject to bring up since driving is such a huge part of our independence as an adult.  It’s not going to be easy to talk them into giving up that privilege.  And most of us can only sympathize with just how difficult that talk is going to be.

In fact, according to a recent survey conducted in partnership with the National Safety Council, asking an elderly parent or loved one to stop driving was more difficult to talk about than topics like selling the house, finances, or final wishes.  See https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/older-drivers.

Point is, it is a hard conversation to have and there are many variables to consider. Is it dangerous for my parents to keep driving? Is it wrong if I ask them to stop driving even if they haven’t had any accidents yet? When is the right time for my parents to stop driving? All of these questions are likely going through your head- the important thing is to start a dialogue and come from a place of honesty and caring.

When to Give Up the Keys

Driver’s safety isn’t just a problem with elderly people. Sometimes medical conditions, physical conditions, and cognitive skills all play an important role in deciding when it’s time to hand over the keys. A good way to recognize bad driving habits is to go for a ride and observe their driving skills. Keep a mental record of any problematic habits and write them down later on. Try to share actual problems you saw while they were driving rather than speaking in generalities, as that will make for a smoother conversation.

According to the AARP, there are several warning signs to look for that may signal it’s time for your elderly parent or loved one to give up the key.  Check out https://www.aarp.org/auto/driver-safety/info-2016/when-to-stop-driving-in-older-age.html. They include:

  • Frequent close calls
  • Getting confused or lost in familiar areas
  • Slow responses to unexpected situations on the road
  • Driving too fast or too slow
  • Frequent dings, dents and scrapes on the vehicle
  • Being easily distracted or having a hard time concentrating
  • Having difficulty staying in the correct lane of traffic
  • Repeatedly hitting curbs when making right turns or backing up


6 Helpful Tips on How to Start the Conversation

  1. Begin Earlier Rather Than Later

If you start seeing small signs early, go ahead and mention it.  Try not to wait until a serious accident happens.  They likely won’t agree with you the first time you bring it up. However, they may seriously consider it if it’s brought up again, especially if they can see your legitimate concern.  Perhaps you can suggest they stop driving only at night time, or when there is bad weather. Once they feel they can still get around without driving, it will be easier to let go when the time comes around.

  1. Try to Be Understanding

Giving up the freedom of driving is a radical lifestyle change. So put yourself in their shoes and keep it casual. Admit that it’s not easy and be respectful when broaching the subject.

You can say, “Dad, I know this must be hard for you, but we need to talk about your driving”. Then share whatever incidents you’ve noticed in a non-judgmental way that has led to this talk. Getting their input is important, too. Ask if they’ve noticed any changes in their driving skills and what they think should be done.

If you’re met with frustration, hostility or denial, remain calm and keep your emotions in check. Having compassion and understanding will go a long way in letting your parents know you care about their safety, not about taking away their self-reliance.

  1. Talk With Your Family

It’s important to include family members and close, personal friends on the subject of driving before you speak with your aging parent or loved one. If you’re all worried and on the same page, it may be enough to convince your aging parent to give up the keys.

However, do not use a family meeting to hold the talk with your parents. It could make them feel as though everyone is ganging up on them, and causing confrontation. Instead, initiate the conversation yourself or ask a trusted family member or friend who relates well with them to have a one-on-one talk.

4.  Visit the DMV

If your talk or multiple talks with your aging parent or loved one isn’t going so well, suggest a visit to your local DMV. They can take a driving and vision test or a refresher course for senior drivers. If they’re not worried about their driving skills, they should be confident about their ability to prove it. However, be ready for the possibility that they might pass their test, and if you still see them making dangerous mistakes on the road, you may be heading for an even more difficult discussion in the near future.

  1. Provide Transportation Alternatives

Losing independence and being trapped in the house is a big fear for seniors who are considering giving up driving. It’s important to make it clear that this is not the end of their weekly bridge game, meeting up with friends, attending church, going shopping or doing all the things they love to do. Know, too, that you and other relatives may have to divvy up some ride sharing duties.

Once no longer driving, your parents will still need some way to get around. Here are some good transportation alternatives for aging individuals that have stopped driving:

  • Explore local bus, subway or train routes. Some even offer seniors discounted fares.
  • Hiring a driver or taxi service is a good option but can be expensive.
  • Ridesharing apps like Uber or Lyft are convenient, but seniors may be a little leery about these new services. Offer to ride along with them on a few trips so they can see how ridesharing works.
  • Many senior living communities offer convenient and regularly scheduled transportation to medical appointments, shopping and community events and programs.
  • Services like Amazon Prime, Instacart, GrubHub and grocery and pharmaceutical delivery options can deliver almost everything right to your parent’s door.
  • Look for free community-based senior transport services. Many nonprofits, like the American       Cancer Society & churches, offer free transportation to medical appointments.
  1. It’s Not Just About Them

If you’re really having a hard time getting through to your parents, point out the effects their decision could have on others. For instance, ask them if they feel confident in their abilities to drive their grandkids safely around town. They may be willing to risk their safety, but the thought of their grandkids getting hurt could bring them back to reality. Besides the more obvious consequences, if they damage someone else’s property or injure another person, they risk a lawsuit and losing their hard-earned retirement savings.

Recognizing the warning signs and talking to aging parents or loved one may not be easy. However, if you start early and plan ahead with the right understanding, the conversation can be successful. And down the road, everyone will feel better and assured that your parents are safe and well-cared for.



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