Motivating older people to exercise means that you've got your work cut out for you. Every person comes with his own preconceptions, fears and beliefs; but seniors may also come with health challenges and a mindset that is not easily swayed, even if it's for their own good. Today's seniors are savvy, so come armed with the latest statistics that will convince them that the benefits of adopting an exercise program at their age far outweighs the alternative; which could be a slow descent into immobility and infirmity. But most importantly, come equipped with a positive attitude and loads of patience and kindness.
Plan Your Approach
Motivation is equal parts enthusiasm and knowledge. When you decide it's time to talk to your senior about exercise, plan your approach. Know her schedule and her moods. Pick a day when neither of you is going to be rushed or distracted. And whatever you do, don't start with the old, вЂњI have to talk to you about something.вЂќ That line makes a person's heart beat faster and can fill her with dread. Instead, just ease into a conversation about fitness. Maybe even share how well your fitness program is going. Keep it light.
Keep it Real
Once you've opened the door to a conversation about exercise and fitness, present the facts. There are a number of government sites like the National Institutes of Health (nihseniorhealth.gov) that illustrate the benefits of exercise for older people, even the infirm. Remind her of how active she's been all of her life and how that doesn't have to change. Listen to her objections and fears, soothe them with understanding but also counter them with facts about how exercise can produce and even improve long-term health in older people. Explain how regular exercise goes a long way toward improving or maintaining balance, keeping joints well-oiled and strengthening muscles to protect the joints.
Learn the Exercises
Go over her options with her. Explain how adding an aerobic workout like swimming, brisk walking or cycling will help control or prevent high blood pressure and decrease the risks of a cardiac event or stroke. Appeal to her vanity by explaining how a heart-pumping workout will help her keep her figure if she's already slim or help her to lose weight if she's not. Introduce yoga as an option. Many recreation centers and yoga studios hold classes especially for seniors, where the instructors have been trained to adjust the poses for older bones. Practicing yoga a few times a week will bolster her balance and flexibility, both of which are critical in helping older people avoid falls. Add a little strength training into the mix, and your senior will enjoy a well-rounded and beneficial workout.
Make it Fun
One of the unavoidable downfalls of getting older is that you start to lose long-time friends, spouses and relatives. Seniors often feel lonely. Reassure your senior that there are numerous clubs, gyms and recreation centers that have exercise programs targeted toward older people where she can connect with other seniors. Extol the virtues of making new friends -- friends who are also invested in their health and well-being. Go with her to pick out her new gear. Steer her toward clothes that will make her feel attractive and powerful.
No matter what the current state of health of your senior, have her checked out by her doctor. She may have underlying conditions that have not yet been diagnosed. Go with her, and then both of you have a chat with the doctor about what you're planning. It's imperative that everyone's on the same page. This also serves to help her believe that she is supported and is surrounded by a cadre of people who care. Motivating an older person to exercise can be an uplifting experience for both of you. Stay connected and show your interest even when she's well on her way.