If it were up to Leslie Tennyson’s 85-year-old dad, he would be happy to
sit at the computer and play games or watch TV on most days.
She saw that first-hand after her dad took a tumble last spring and broke a
bone in his hip. The spill sent him first to the hospital and then to a
rehabilitation center before he could go back to his home in St. Augustine,
Florida, with a care plan to continue his exercises.
“The problem is, he didn’t do them,” says Tennyson. So, she hired a
physical therapist to come to his home twice a week to work on exercises to
keep him active.
“It absolutely was helpful,’’ said Tennyson, who is now using this
experience to guide her in selecting future home care services for her dad.
“Once he got the push, he could drive himself to the grocery store and get
back to cooking -- a hobby he enjoys,” she said. “He needed some
“Taking It Easy Is Risky”
Staying active is one key to maintaining physical, emotional and
psychological health for all adults and is especially true for aging
While older adults may worry that becoming active may result in injury, the
National Institute of Health
says staying sedentary is more damaging.
“Studies show that ‘taking it easy is risky,’’ the NIH says. “For the most
part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it
doesn’t happen just because they’ve aged. It’s usually because they’re not
According to a
U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health
, there’s a price to pay for inactivity. Inactive people are nearly twice
as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. And a lack
of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more
hospitalizations and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.
Tennyson said her dad’s surgery and subsequent therapy was the “slap in the
face I needed” to start looking for home care services that will soon be
necessary. The experience helped her recognize that she needs to look for a
provider who will push her dad to continue his active lifestyle and one who
will incorporate his hobbies.
The benefits of physical activity, according to that U.S. Surgeon General
report, are numerous. Such activity has been shown to:
Maintain the ability to live independently, while reducing the risk of
Reduce the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing
high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes
Improve stamina and muscle strength in people with chronic, disabling
Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, while fostering well-being
Maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, and controls joint swelling
and pain linked to arthritis
And if that isn’t enough, consider the benefits of maintaining social
National Institute on Aging
(NIA) points to research and studies that show aging adults who continue
hobbies and social interactions are:
Less like to develop certain diseases and may be at a lower risk for
developing health problems, including dementia
More likely to live longer
Happier and less depressed
Better prepared to cope with loss
Health and Outlook Improved
Like many family caregivers who struggle with bouts of caregiver guilt,
Tennyson is cognizant that she likely doesn’t push her dad enough or
recognize how to get him to pursue his hobbies.
But it is now at the top of her list of questions to ask a professional
caregiver because she saw first-hand how her dad's health and his outlook
She said she wants to hear a potential provider ask her dad what his
hobbies are, what he enjoys doing around the house and she will
then ask for a care plan to continue those activities.
Tennyson is looking for professionals to empower her dad, not enable him.
“I want him to be as independent as possible," says Tennyson. “I don’t want
him to give in physically or emotionally. The organization that appeals to
me will not just do the function, but will produce a positive attitude and
Speaking of Staying Active
four areas to concentrate on for your parent to remain or to get
You can help Mom or Dad work on these a little each day. None of the
exercises below require a gym membership and many activities can be done at
home with the help of a home health care professional. Remember to have
your parent talk with a doctor before beginning any exercise program.
These activities get the heart pumping and increase breathing. Focusing on
endurance helps with everyday activities like walking up stairs and
shopping. Encourage your parent to:
Rake leaves or sweep the floor
Take a brisk walk or bike ride
These help your parent’s muscles stay stronger and can help him or her with
activities like keeping up with grandchildren and carrying groceries.
Encourage your parent to:
Grab a tennis ball and grip and release for several times in each hand
Use a can of vegetables as a small weight and lift, do arm curls and push
it toward the ceiling
Stand behind a chair, with his or her hands on the back for balance and
come up on the toes and come back down, then repeat several times
Falling is a crucial worry among aging adults and for a good reason, as
one in four Americans
aged 65-plus falls each year. Focusing on balance exercises can make your
parent more stable and reduces falls. Encourage your parent to:
Stand behind a chair and using it for stability, raise a leg and hold it
up for a few seconds
Walk heel-to-toe in a straight line
Check out a YouTube video on basic Tai Chi and follow along on the
These exercises are stretches that will help your parent remain limber.
Staying limber will help him or her get dressed, put on shoes and take down
or put away items on shelves. Encourage your parent to:
Sit on a bench or the floor and extend one leg and bend their upper body
toward the leg. Switch legs
Throw a towel over the left shoulder, holding with the left hand and
grabbing the towel’s other end with the right (behind the back). Use the
left hand to pull the right hand up the spine. The right arm should be
relaxed as the towel is pulled with the left. Pull only to the point of
resistance and hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other
It is important to know about staying active is that doing something is
always better than doing nothing. Starting slow is better than never
You or your professional caregiver can also help Mom or Dad map their
progress by keeping a daily log. The National Institute of Health’s Go4life
downloadable one here.
For more information on home care services and how a professional caregiver
can keep your parent active, click here.