There are studies that have determined that being stationary for long periods of time is linked to a greater risk of depression in seniors.
You can combat depression in senior housing communities by fostering an environment that encourages residents to exercise and stay active.Related Blog: What are the Signs of Elderly Depression?
Why Is Physical Activity Important in Battling Depression?
It is well-known that physical activity is key in maintaining health for people of all ages. Mental health can be improved through a regular exercise regimen or social interaction. For seniors living in independent living communities, movement can help keep depression and feelings of isolation away, as they connect to their community.
Without movement, depression can be worsened due to factors like:
- Lack of socializing
- Being largely inactive
- Being severely over or underweight
- Needing assistance to perform daily activity
In turn, depression generally leads to more inactivity and possible disability over time.
Luckily, communities that enact some form of exercise programs can slow or reverse some of the impact of depression due to the psychological benefits of exercise (which includes a release of endorphins that help tranquilize depression for a few hours).
How to Motivate Seniors to Stay Active
Experts have suggested that people are more motivated to exercise (and keep up exercise) when they feel they have personal freedom, the ability to make their own decisions, or feel a connection to others through physical activity.
Senior living communities can help keep residents active through dynamic, fun exercise programs and frequent social outings. Residents aren’t forced to get up and go to the gym, yet, communities can still offer a variety of activities to boost motivation.
Senior exercise programs can offer a variety of exercises to keep seniors active:
- Walking Groups - Walking groups are an accessible and community-oriented way of staying fit and active. It’s common for some communities to meet weekly for a walk around the town that can sometimes include visits to diners and local coffee houses. The increase in walking allows seniors to keep their mobility longer.
- Swimming and Aquatic Exercises - Swimming has traditionally been an excellent low-impact, fun exercise for seniors. Classes like this promote flexibility and strength as well as providing a twist on the usual water activities offered to seniors.
- Video-games - This entry may be unexpected but it found some success in some senior communities. The Nintendo Wii has been used to promote exercise, team work, and social bonding, as seniors participate in games; like bowling, tennis, or golf.
The Many Benefits of Movement for Seniors
In addition to fighting off depression, encouraging seniors to move offers a host of other benefits:
- Improved Cardiovascular Function - Physical activity helps lower and manage cardiovascular conditions, such as low and high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Healthier Immune System - Exercise keeps the body healthier and more able to combat illness. It also helps the body recover from the illness faster.
- Less Risk of Osteoporosis - Exercise helps maintain bone density. As women age, in particular, bone mass loss can occur at a rate of as much as 2 percent per year. Men also suffer from a loss of bone mass. Strength training combats a loss of bone density, restores bones, and contributes to greater balance and strength. Better bone density reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Community - With neighbors, friends, and fellow residents around, senior living activity programs usually help seniors feel a greater sense of community as they exercise.
- Management of Chronic Conditions - Regular physical activity has been found to be beneficial in the management of conditions such as diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and obesity.
- Injury Prevention - The CDC found that moderate aerobic exercise help lower the risk of hip fracture, which is a major cause of health issues for seniors.
- Better Quality of Life - As exercise improves mobility and strength, seniors can feel more confident in their day-to-day life and develop less fear (stemming from the possibility of injury) of activity.
The link between depression and lack of movement is strong. Yet, seniors and the communities they reside in can fight the specter of depression head on. Programs and communities that promote movement will help give seniors the mental and physical strength to maintain their mental health and quality of life.