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The key to physical fitness for older adults

Revera’s Six Dimensions of Wellness is a holistic approach to health and wellness that includes: physical, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and community engagement. Since the start of the new year, we have been exploring each of these dimensions in closer detail. 

Keeping up an active lifestyle as you age is crucial to maintaining your independence in later years. The earlier you start the better, but it’s never too late to ward off some of the aches and pains that can surface as we get older. In fact, exercise is the simplest prescription for healthy aging and an important example of self-empowerment as you define the lifestyle you want to live in your retirement.



Lucille Dube, 78, moved into Parkwood Place Retirement Residence in Victoria, BC earlier this year and knows firsthand the importance of keeping active as you age. “We all want to stay independent as long as we can,” says the retired manager of a retirement residence. “Being active means we can do the things we enjoy, go where we want and feeling good in part by keeping busy.”
 
Marlie Philp, Director of Recreation at Parkwood Place, agrees with this sentiment and adds, “for me physical activity on its own is wonderful, but if you can encompass social and physical elements in the same thing that’s where you’re going to see the most positive benefits.”
 
All the physical programs at Parkwood Place are done as a group to promote this social aspect. Morning exercise classes are run six days a week. There are also walking groups and organized physical games that are played around the community, such as bocce and indoor bowling. “The programs are really popular and the residents regularly max out the space we have,” says Philp.

One of the biggest challenges Philp faces as the Director of Recreation is to tailor the physical programs to accommodate everyone. She must find ways to make sure the programs are challenging enough for some, but not too difficult that they turn off others from participating. Philp explains that just like in any group of people, there are varying abilities and the goal is to be as inclusive as possible.
 
“Age is only a number,” Chuck Naylor says assertively. The 82-year-old retired marketing manager lives at Parkwood Place with his wife, Flo. Throughout his life, Naylor has maintained an active lifestyle. “All of us were born to move, to think and to talk. All three of these should march lock step throughout our lives.”
 
For Dube and Naylor, they both look to their families as motivation for leading active lives. “My mother was always on the go as we were growing up,” says Dube. “At age 87 she would go for walks daily and it showed me the good way to keep healthy.”
 
“At age 45 I started to realize that I had to get more exercise so I set an objective of walking 1,000 miles per year. The objective still stands,” Naylor says proudly, while crediting his wife and kids for keeping him active.
 
“I think a lot of people misjudge their elders and their physical and mental capabilities,” Naylor continues.
 
Philp agrees there is a lot of stigma surrounding older adults and aging generally. That’s why she believes in the importance of staying active. “I’ve heard from residents who participate in the programs that they feel stronger and more confident. They don’t feel like they’re aging as much. It’s like you have this young mind and your body can keep up with it.”
 
Confidence in aging is the goal of physical programs at Revera residences. Staying physically active as we age allows us to maintain independence and lead the types of lifestyles we want without the restrictions of aches and pains.
 
The Government of Canada gives tips on physical activity for adults over 65 and recommends engaging in at least 2.5 hours of aerobic activity a week and add muscle and bone strengthening activities twice a week at minimum. With an active lifestyle and positive outlook, age is just a number allowing us to enjoy life to the fullest.

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