In song and story, and even in our perception of ourselves, life is pictured as a journey. It’s a metaphorical path, like a Keane kid dotted-line doodle, from birth to death, zig-zagging along river and dale. But when we get older, while we might be moving metaphorically, we too often stop moving physically. That path isn’t quite a dead end, but we are walking in place.
Many older adults limit their physical activity. It is true that the body can’t do everything it used to, but if a person can still move, they should. Part of the problem is expectation and imagination: Society expects older adults to be inactive, and people who have been very active imagine that there is nothing for them to do. They think that if they aren’t running, they may as well be sitting.
That’s not the case. There are many forms of exercise that are suitable for nearly all levels of motion, from low-impact to moderate. And that’s what we’ll be celebrating on National Senior Health and Fitness Day 2017, which takes place on May 31st. It’s a day-long celebration of movement, exercise, community, and life.
All over the Bay Area, older adults can participate in the joy of movement on a spring day, far from autumnal leavings. It’s a chance to stretch, to join peers, and to remember that you didn’t leave health and fitness behind with the years. It’s something you can keep with you always, and at the end of the month, we’ll celebrate it.
Participating in Senior Health and Fitness Day
May, of course, is Older Americans Month, something we celebrate year-round at IOA. The idea of the month (and our mission) is to help older adults recognize that they can keep growing, keep exploring, and keep being themselves as they age. So it is fitting that the last day of the month isn’t looking back, but looking forward. It is kickstarting a healthier lifestyle.
This is the nation’s largest health-promoting event for older adults. As they explain, “Local organizations throughout the country will host senior-related health and fitness events at retirement communities, health clubs, senior centers, park districts, hospitals, YMCAs, houses of worship, banks, and other community locations.”
Any organization can host an event. There is still time, and you can learn more and register here. You can also find participating local groups, like this one in San Pablo. It will be a day of exercise and health, with workshops that will help you plan your fitness regiment moving forward so that you can live a life that is full of opportunity.
We believe strongly in the psychological and (of course) physical benefits of group exercise, interacting with peers in a spirit of mutual encouragement, which is one of the reasons why we strongly support National Senior Health and Fitness Day. But of course, this day isn’t the only day you should be fit. It can, if possible, be a lifelong affair.
Bringing Health and Fitness Into the Everyday
Your body’s needs change as you get older: There are more bone and joint issues, more heart problems, inflammation, and, of course, pain. That’s one reason why a lot of older adults avoid exercise. But regular exercise, far from exacerbating pain, actually helps to manage chronic pain conditions.
That’s one of the reasons why fitness is so important. Moving the body becomes a routine and a habit, and that healthy lifestyle can change moods, decrease isolation, improve spirits, and give a person more energy. And it is easier than ever now to do so.
Fitness apps designed especially for older adults are easy and intuitive ways to set reminders, track progress, and even get fitness advice. Using them takes some of the difficulties out of making fitness a habit. You’re always reminded.
Activities are limitless. You can take advantage of the nearly innumerable opportunities in the Bay Area. Here are just a few:
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area: This is one of the most beautiful spots in the country, where this expansive land crashes into the sea. It’s one of our favorite outdoor spots in the Bay Area, and it’s perfect for hiking, biking, or just a leisurely stroll.
- Big Basin Redwoods State Park: 65 miles north of San Francisco, this wheelchair-friendly trail reminds you of the limitless beauty and enduring power of nature.
- Castle Rock Recreation Area (Walnut Park): One of the best pools in the Bay Area, with classes for older adults.
Remember though that fitness doesn’t have to be extreme. It just means moving in a way that works for your body (for some people, that means making an effort to do seemingly little things like cleaning or shopping).
It’s the movement that matters, whether you are swimming, walking, enjoying the stillness of yoga, or just walking around the house dusting, you are going forward. You aren’t letting perceptions and imaginations stop you from getting the most out of life. That’s what National Senior Health and Fitness Day is all about: It’s a reminder that it isn’t just one day. It’s one life.
At Institute on Aging, we promote health, wellness, and happiness for older adults, their families, and caregivers in the Bay Area. Please connect with us today to learn more.