Exercise and Movement are Key Components to Healthy Aging


One of the many challenges facing older people is the continuing need to stay active. Not only do many adults find themselves becoming increasingly sedentary after retirement, but a myriad of other issues contribute to people becoming increasingly less mobile.

A recent article on the National Public Radio website details the concerns experts face regarding the health of seniors. As the Baby Boomer generation swells the numbers of older adults, the need to ensure their long-term health increases as well. Living healthy, active lifestyles is becoming a paramount concern for the personal assistants and caregivers who work with older adults.

As noted in the article, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report on a study that examined how effective even limited exercise was on adults in their 70s and 80s. The study, conducted across eight different states and examining almost 1,700 individuals, broke its participants into two groups. The first was a physical activity group that met twice a week at a local center, focusing on aerobic, resistance, and flexibility training. The second was a group that took a health education class with some upper extremity stretching and very little exercise. The participants engaged with the study for an average of 2.6 years.

The results showed that around 30% of the physical activity group ended up temporarily disabled, with 15% permanently disabled over time. However, 35.5% of the education group was temporarily disabled, with 20% permanently disabled.

As quoted to the NPR article, Dr. Marco Pahor, director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Florida, stated that the social aspect is a key component of keeping elderly adults moving. Working together, seniors were more likely to engage in healthy movement.

Encouraging and engaging elderly adults in a healthy lifestyle is one of the key responsibilities of personal assistants, caregivers, family members and people working with the elderly, not to mention the person receiving care. The DirectCourse/College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving (CPAC) has two courses that focus specifically on living a healthy lifestyle, and responding to various challenges in maintaining good fitness habits.

Healthy Lives One and Healthy Lives Two are designed to help give caregivers the tools needed to encourage healthy living. Part One gives learners the basics and focuses on caring for individuals with disabilities or various conditions. Part Two explores numerous ways to encourage healthy living and how to stay fit, as well as focusing on diet and methods to relieve stress.

Dr. Bob Newcomer, Professor Emeritus at the University of California-San Francisco, notes that the CPAC curriculum is constantly evolving, especially as new studies and reports are published. “We’ve tried to have material that supports the various aspects of the lifestyle of elderly adults,” Newcomer states. “We focus on the health of the individual, from the standpoint of self-management, health condition, dietary needs, and more.” The DirectCourse/College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving can give families, the elderly, as well as the people who support them critical tools to help making aging a healthier process. CPAC is authored by staff from the Community Living Policy Center at the University of California-San Francisco.

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