The story below is from our September/October 2015 issue. For the DIGITALLY ENHANCED VERSION, download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
Health is more than physical, and wellness programs in our area are focusing on the overall well-being of the older adults in our community, the fastest growing age group in the U.S.
Adults 65 and older are the fastest growing age group in the U.S. As a result of longer life spans and aging baby boomers, the population of older adults is expected to reach more than 72 million in the next two decades. By 2030, seniors will account for 20 percent of the U.S. population.
This recent rise in the number of older adults in our communities has led to many wellness programs designed to keep seniors healthy and happy as they get older. National programs such as EnhanceFitness, Walk with Ease and Active Living Every Day were established to help older adults maintain and improve their physical health. Locally, Carilion Wellness created the Senior Moments program in 2011; it is free to Carilion Wellness members 60 and older and offers exercise classes, social events and health education seminars.
“Our main goal with this program started and continues to be to help motivate and hold accountable our seniors in a way that helps them to not only get fit, but to also maintain an active lifestyle,” says Kim Treadway, group exercise manager for Carilion Wellness.
As we age (well, for all ages, really), we need to incorporate two types of physical activity into our routine: aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activity. According to The State of Aging and Health in America by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity—both aerobic and muscle-strengthening, three days a week—is safe and helps reduce the risk of falling.
“Falls are one of the most common injuries in seniors,” says Treadway. “As we age, our need to stay independent grows; therefore, so does our need to remain steady and on our feet.”
One form of exercise that Treadway recommends for seniors is aqua aerobics. “Seniors do need to try to keep their exercise low impact, as it is easier on joints and bones. But they also need to try to incorporate strength training of some sort, which helps maintain bone mass as they age.” Aqua aerobics, she says, is the perfect combination because moving with and against the buoyancy of the water allows seniors to burn calories and build strength simultaneously.
Wellness programs such as Senior Moments are about more than physical health. Mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health, which is why members of Carilion’s program enjoy social events such as monthly potlucks as part of their wellness routine.
“Seniors are at a point in their lives where they should be able to take it easier and enjoy their lives,” says Treadway. “To move often, just slower. To do things they love, just in moderation. To work out, just at a pace that’s comfortable for them.”
And to have fun while they’re getting fit. “Laughter. That’s a big one! Not only is it a great core workout, it’s simply good for the soul, and there’s not much that makes us feel better than to see our seniors have fun and laugh together and with us,” says Treadway.
Physical health is essential to the overall well-being of older adults, but no less important than their happiness. As much as we can do for our seniors, they can still offer more for us. “Our seniors matter an awful lot to us here at Carilion Wellness,” says Treadway, “and to me personally. I look up to these folks. They’ve lived lives longer than I have. They’ve seen things and done things that I haven’t. And they simply have tons to offer. They know what it’s like to succeed and they know what it’s like to fail, and they keep going ahead of us.”