Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

How Can We Promote Active Living among Seniors?

October 24, 2023

promote active living

My last blog was a challenge to seniors to keep physically active as part of a healthy lifestyle. Today, I want to challenge our community to encourage seniors to make active living a priority. 

Our culture thinks of retirement as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy a life of ease. If we’re not careful, retirement can become a battle against choosing the easiest activity. 

How can we help seniors choose a more active lifestyle?

The danger of the easy choice

I have nothing against bingo. Social isolation is a dangerous threat to our seniors, and activities like bingo are a great way to bring folks into a room to talk and socialize with one another.

However, bingo does not take eye and hand coordination. There’s not a lot of brain activity that goes into marking numbers on a card as they’re called out. 

Bingo should not be the highlight of your retired mother’s activity for the week. Neither should plopping on a couch in front of a TV fill the majority of her day. 

I get that an interesting documentary may be educational and stimulating to the brain. But let’s be honest: most of our seniors aren’t flipping to brain-stimulating programming. 

We’re all busy, and maybe it’s easier for families to use a TV as a major part of a senior’s routine. It’s not much different than giving a kid an iPad to keep them occupied. . 

However, I want to encourage our families to work against the grain of ease. Keep Grandma involved in household tasks and activities. Little prompts like asking for small favors in the kitchen can go a long way to keeping her active. 

Even if sharing the chore slows how quickly dinner gets on the table. 

Keeping the movement fun

Our volunteer coordinator is certified to teach Zumba Gold, which I think is a great choice for exercise. Zumba uses music and dance to make cardio movements engaging and fun. The “gold” version lowers the intensity to encourage seniors to join in. 

At some of our care center events, I’ve seen a whole room full of seniors participating in Zumba and loving it. You can join in from a wheelchair. You can sit down in the middle if the activity gets too much. 

The important thing is there’s movement. 

You don’t have to be certified in anything to encourage the movement. I’ve seen assisted living facilities find amazingly creative ways to create simple and fun DIY games. 

One involved a “basketball hoop” made out of cardboard. The group had to shoot small balls into the makeshift hoop while circling the room. It looked like a variation of musical chairs, and the seniors were having a blast. 

Anything to keep seniors from spending the entire day in front of a TV. Or spending the day at the casino, pulling a level on a slot machine over and over. 

Repetitive actions that don’t require any active simulation from your brain are toxic for anyone with not much else to do. It’s just too easy to let simplified pleasures take the place of activities that truly bring us joy. 

Join our efforts to keep seniors active

At Heart2Heart, we’re always working on ways to keep our seniors active and moving. If you’re a volunteer, you can always join us at one of our monthly events.

If you’re not a volunteer yet, get started here

Last month, we hosted a new event as a fundraiser and a way to promote active living in seniors. 

The 5K Gran Run was an invitation to runners of all ages, not just seniors. We partnered with a timing company to attract more serious 5K runners. 

We had 150 people come out to volunteer, support the cause, and participate. In total, about 88 people raced in the inaugural run. 

We had a really diverse age group of racers too. The runners included my friend Linda, whom I talked about in my last blog. 

The winner of the 5K was Mitch Levine, 32, who ran the whole thing in 17 minutes 28 seconds — which is just nuts.  

We got great feedback. People told us they would have never thought that it was our first 5K and said it was one of the more organized 5K races they’d ever been to. 

We’re planning to host another 5K in March 2024, so be on the lookout for that. 

In the meantime, encourage the seniors in your life to stay active and keep their lives full of brain-stimulating activities that give them joy. 
And please, please keep the time in front of the TV to a minimum.

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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