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Benefits of exercise in older adults: part 2

How to encourage older adults to stay active

In a recent Marquette Presents panel discussion, “Exercise as Medicine,” Dr. Sandra Hunter presented a talk about the importance of exercise in old age. But as parents and relatives age, motivating them to be active may be difficult. Kathy Molling, a Milwaukee-area physical therapist with more than 40 years of experience, offered these suggestions for helping loved ones stay active in later life.

1. Lead by example. Be active, and talk openly with those you care for about the benefits you've seen. “With patients that I work with I certainly try to present a positive image as far as the benefits of regular exercise … so I'll chat with them about things that I like to do to maintain my level of activity,” said Molling.

2. Use your community resources. Community centers and senior centers as well as other organizations throughout Milwaukee host programs that are dedicated to helping seniors stay active and independent. Molling said encouraging an individual to participate in a community exercise program is great if he or she is comfortable with that type of activity, but centers are also wonderful sources for information and other social activities.

3. Know when to ask for help. People don't always enjoy taking advice from their kids. “We see that in this setting all the time,” said Molling. “We can get people to do things, and yet the families will tell us, 'Well, they won't do what I tell them to do,' because of the family relationship.” Getting a third party to support you can be helpful in your efforts to motivate a family member.

Remember also, that age necessitates individualized routines with the appearance of medical issues seldom seen in young people. Dementia, for example, can be difficult to work with because it interferes with a person's ability to follow directions. “But that doesn't mean that we can't work with them,” Molling said, “because we just have to use different strategies to encourage them to participate.”

Enjoy this article? Part three will discuss how we first started uncovering the benefits of exercise in later life. If you'd like an email alert when it becomes available, click Subscribe above.