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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

GUEST BLOGGER JOBI TYSON ON Helping Seniors Stay Physically and Mentally Active: MIND, BODY & SPIRIT

According to a 2013 study by the National Institutes of Health, “A little exercise and some mental stimulation may go a long way toward helping senior citizens stay sharp.” Researchers found the memory and thinking skills of 126 inactive older adults improved after they were assigned daily activities designed to engage their brains and their bodies. 

Therefore, making small changes in physical and mental activity leads to positive changes in memory and thinking skills and great results for the mind, body, and spirit. 

MIND: Seniors can keep their mind sharp with games such as word search, dominoes, Scrabble, learning a new language, learning to play an instrument, interacting with others, engaging with younger generation, and/or learning new technology. Experts suggest the following: 

  • Attend lectures and plays 
  • Read, write, work crossword or other puzzles 
  • Stay curious and involved — explore a lifelong interest 
  • Garden work 
  • Memory exercises
  • Enroll in courses at a local adult education center, community college or other community group 

BODY: Physical activity is one of the most important steps older adults can take to maintain physical and mental health and quality of life. Yet today, more than 60 percent of older adults are inactive, and this number is probably much higher for residents of assisted living communities.  Many are sedentary, physically unfit, and experience disability from chronic medical conditions as they age. Seniors can benefit from these tips: 

Keep it simple (walk, swim, yoga); just move and get some fresh air. Movement helps with flexibility, strength, balance, stability, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. For seniors who have physical limitations one of the best ways to enjoy a variety of activities is with a Nintendo Wii game. Wii is an interactive system that connects to a television. The virtual games allow those with physical limitations to enjoy activities such as bowling, tennis, soccer, golf, skiing, and yoga. Consult physician before beginning physical activity program. 

For those who are physically able, get involved in a seniors group at a local health club or senior center. Go walking during the day with a friend at the park or the mall. Continue playing golf, bowling, tennis, or swimming. Many health clubs offer water aerobics for seniors. 

One of the most enjoyable ways to get seniors moving is by helping them remember their favorite childhood games. 

  • Bring hopscotch inside by using stickers or colored tape to create the hopscotch board on the floor inside the home. Seniors incapable of actually hopping, can simply walk across the board, occasionally pausing and balancing on one foot. 
  • Play a simplified version of jacks by spreading out a collection of actual jacks or other small items across a table and providing a small ball to bounce. Seniors can pick up a certain number of items, or items of a specific color, each time they bounce the ball. The game can become more challenging by using more advanced instructions such as first picking up three items, then being challenged to pick up enough items to make eight. This critical thinking exercise will keep seniors’ brains healthier 
  • Gather children and play a family game of Simon Says, a perfect opportunity to encourage physical exercise 
  • Keep instructions and movements simple so that seniors stay safe and enjoy the activity 

SPIRIT: When the body ages, the ability of seniors to stay sharp and the ability to deal effectively with anxiety and stress reduce as well. While there are many ways to help an elderly loved one do all they can do to maintain health, one of the best ways to improve both the physical and mental health of a senior citizen is meditation. Loneliness isn’t just an emotional issue; it’s a form of stress that has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and early death. And it’s particularly acute among the elderly. 

  • Meditation can reduce feelings of loneliness and boost the immune system. 
  • Other calming activities that can boost the spirit are soothing massages, which also helps reduce stress levels; pet therapy; and interaction with children. 

Mind, body and spirit are important factors in keeping seniors physically and mentally active.  Caretakers and family members should take time to work with senior loved ones to focus and reflect on all of the wonderful effects that physical and mental activity can bring. 

 

About the Writer 

Jobi Tyson is founder of Grand Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization granting wishes to senior citizens 70 years and older and fighting elder hunger and abuse. The goal is to uplift elders in nursing facilities and those living in their own homes by making their wishes come true. For more information about Grand Wish Foundation or to donate toward the Feed the Elderly Initiative, visit www.grandwishfoundation.org. 

 


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