Whether you’re very active or less active, regular exercise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle as you age. That’s a truth that senior living facilities recognize as well.
According to a 2011 survey by the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, health and wellness is the second biggest emerging trend in senior living. This survey projected that senior living facilities offering fitness and wellness programs would jump from 40 percent to 78 percent over five years.
The Importance of Wellness and Exercise Programs
Why are health and wellness programs making their way to the forefront at senior living communities?
First, exercise can prevent and delay many diseases. Research has shown that regular exercise is associated with reduced risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most dreaded consequences of aging. Studies have now associated exercise with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. While more research is needed, the results are promising thus far and are just another reason to add regular exercise to your routine.
Second, indirectly, exercise can make you feel good! When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins (also known as the feel-good chemical). Exercise of any kind has been shown to be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Plus, it improves sleep and reduces anxiety and stress.
So if you want a senior living community with a stellar wellness and fitness program, what should you look for exactly? Let’s take a look.
6 Things to Look for in a Senior Living Wellness Program
Types of Classes: Variety is key. You want the ability to choose from a number of different classes and activities. This will not only ensure classes that you enjoy, but may also allow you to explore fun activities you haven’t tried before.
When it comes to exercise, focus on weight-bearing and balance exercises for countering osteoporosis and promoting bone health. Weight-bearing exercise literally means to bear your own weight. This stresses your bones — in a positive way. Such exercises include hiking, walking, tennis, yoga, tai chi and pilates.
Tai chi, pilates and yoga for osteoporosis, in particular, also improve your balance and have been shown to improve bone health. One study has shown that tai chi can also help ease arthritic symptoms.
Qualified Instructors: Once you have seen the variety of classes that a senior living community offers, the next question is: Do these classes have qualified instructors?
Exercises like yoga and pilates, while extremely beneficial, should be modified depending on the ages and limitations of the participants. A qualified instructor will be able to modify any movement to help you complete the class safely.
Give the community bonus points if it has a full-time personal trainer for residents to work with one on one.
Frequency of Classes: If you’re happy with the variety of classes offered at a senior living community, determine whether the classes are held often enough. You don’t want to have to wait a week or two between classes.
Health Education: Wellness encompasses a multidimensional lifestyle, including physical, spiritual and mental well-being.
Discover if your prospective senior living community also provides health education classes. Exercising your mind is just as important as exercising your body — whether it’s through seminars, lectures, inspirational talks, or social activities like trips.
Transportation to Nearby Centers: See if the community offers transportation to senior centers that may have other classes or activities.
Activities Coordinator: Get a feel for the activities coordinator. How long have they been around? What are they like? By doing this, you can get a sense of whether they’re invested in the members and the community.
Health and wellness programs offered by senior living communities aim to help you maintain your independence. Now it’s time to take care of yourself! Use this list to help you decide what to do next.
Your turn: Do you have any other tips on what to look for in a senior living facility’s health and wellness program? Share your thoughts in the comments below.