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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy


Exercise and Older Adults continued...

Ask your older relative to keep an exercise log and consult it often. Compliment his progress and celebrate breakthroughs.

Yoga is a great form of gentle exercise that improves the immune system and promotes well-being, among many other benefits. Weight training, tai chi, swimming, and low-impact aerobics are also generally beneficial to seniors.

Make your own exercise video for your mother. She might hate the idea of staring at a nubile twenty-something while she does her stretching exercises, but what if, instead, she had an image of you or her granddaughter guiding her through the routine? If you own a video camera, don't pass up this opportunity to make each day more special for her.

Set up an area of your Dad's home where he can exercise safely. Make it special: get an attractive exercise mat and maybe even hang up an inspirational poster. Get him colorful workout wear or a funny T-shirt ("Over the hill? What hill?").

If you can't go yourself, hire a reliable teen to take your parent for a walk. The outing might be less awkward if you give it a purpose, like a daily trip to the store for bagels and a newspaper.

Gardening, housecleaning, and shopping can be considered exercise. Redefine the word exercise as needed.

Things change. From time to time, review your loved one's exercise routine to make sure it's still appropriate.

Encourage deep breathing. Most people forget to breathe when they exercise.

Check with a doctor or physical therapist before your loved one embarks on any exercise routine.

"I've heard that advice about a million times and was assured by our family doctor that Dad's calisthenics were just fine for him. But it never occurred to me to check back after he developed a minor ear infection that left him with a slight balancing problem. It turned out that even some of the neck rolls he was doing were affecting his ability to stand up without getting dizzy." 

-Bari Meyer

If your grandfather isn't motivated to exercise, take him to a ball game to remind him of what it was like to have the wind blow through his hair (when he had hair). Walking to your seats is enough to get the body moving, and the fresh air will do wonders for him.

Bring your older parent to a physical therapist for advice and general guidance. If you can get Dad's doctor to recommend the visit, insurance will pay for it. If not, it'll be a worthy expense, given the possible benefits.

All exercise routines, even walking, should start and end with a period of stretching. A stretch needs to be held for at least five seconds to be effective.

If your father refuses to exercise, try to get him to at least work on one of the important muscle groups: arms, legs, shoulders, or back.

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