Senior man and woman dancingInactivity, isolation and depression are the greatest threats to an older adult’s mental and physical health. Doctors and mental health professionals agree that remaining active socially, psychologically, and physically is the key to maintaining a healthy and vibrant lifestyle. Yet losing touch with friends and family members who are too busy to spend time with an aging family member makes it difficult and contributes to the erosion of cognitive faculties and physical vitality, even among seniors who are in reasonably good health. A strong sense of well-being staves off the debilitating effects of loneliness, but achieving and maintaining that sense requires an active approach to life that many seniors have lost touch with and lack the capacity to regain. 

Fortunately, the Internet has made it easier than ever for seniors to learn, grow and remain active as they age in place. That’s important given that 67 percent of America’s elderly population is sedentary for at least 8 hours a day, a factor that accelerates physical decline. Today, there are many ways for elderly adults to remain socially engaged, intellectually stimulated and physically active.

An Active Senior is a Healthy Senior

Regular physical activity, whether walking with friends or doing low-impact exercises at home, is absolutely vital for both body and mind. Exercise can be a highly social endeavor, so consider catching up with friends as you walk together at a nearby park or mall - a great way to kill two birds with one stone. If your ease of movement is somewhat limited, try doing chair exercises or simple stretching exercises at home while watching TV. Taking a dance class is another excellent opportunity to make friends and get some needed social interaction as you work your muscles and joints. A leading medical journal recently found that taking part in a dance class every week reduced the instance of depression in older adults living in a senior facility. Remember, physical exercise can improve your mood and help invigorate your mental faculties. 

Intellectual Engagement for Seniors

The mind, like the body, falls into decline when neglected. Seniors need mental activity as much as they need regular exercise. The sky’s the limit as far as what seniors can do to stay cognitively engaged. There are countless online games, puzzles and activities aimed at developing cognitive skills on the Internet, many of which are free and can be done as a group. Starting a new hobby is also a great way to stay engaged, as is using your personal skills and experience to make a little money online. Scientists believe that exercising your mind every day can develop cognitive resources that help improve memory.

The Powerful Relationship Between Seniors and Their Pets

A study published in a leading gerontology journal revealed that caring for a pet helps seniors avoid depression and stay involved socially. Pet ownership reduces blood pressure, helps lower cholesterol levels, and can boost heart health. A warm and cuddly pooch or cat can enhance a senior’s sense of comfort and well-being and enhance mood by boosting levels of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. Many senior living communities are equipped to care for residents with pets, and some have someone on staff whose responsibility is to help keep both owner and pet happy. Staying physically healthy, socially active, and mentally engaged as you age are keys to boosting senior mental health, experts agree. Spending time every week with your pet at a dog park is an excellent way to get some fresh air and exercise. And lucky for you, dog parks are everywhere! Here’s a quick sampling courtesy of Rover.com: Knoxville, TNMadison, WICalgarySaint Paul, MNIndianapolis, INRaleigh, NCPortland, ORMiami, FLSan Jose, CA, and Albuquerque, NM. If your city isn’t listed, do a quick search to locate the nearest dog-friendly park to you.

Fun and Fulfillment for Seniors

Studies have shown that social activity and daily engagement are the keys to a healthy lifestyle for older adults. That’s why daily exercise and cognitively challenging activities are essential in keeping seniors from falling into physical and mental deterioration. Staying active is fun and fulfilling, which leads to happiness whether you’re young or old. 

About the author

Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell to share his tips on senior fitness.