Aging in the Third Millenium: Part 2
If we’re going to live longer and make new friends to help us enjoy the journey, it only makes sense to keep our traveling vessels in excellent condition. Not the car; a vehicle we use even more often, but may not service as well: our bodies.
This fantastic four-minute video demonstrates how to “disrupt” aging, no matter what our age. It illumines the truth that how we perceive “old” has more to do with how we feel than with our chronology. And how we feel begins with taking care of the body. In fact, physical fitness is the highest projected growth area for senior health and wellness, with a predicted $8.2 billion in cumulative revenues between 2015 and 2020.
You know that “old person” shuffle? A new university study of masters level runners reveals what causes it. Stride length and running speed slow by about 20 percent from age 20 to 59 — and ankle power decreases by almost half during the same period. As we age, strength training can make a big difference.
The National Institutes of Health suggests a range of senior exercises to build endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility, for both upper and lower body. You can try this simple test for musculoskeletal strength if you’re over 50. The results might shock you.
Cut A Rug
One reverse mortgage professional, a longtime ballroom dancer, maintains that dancing is one of the best activities to help seasoned adults stay fit, as well as to meet new friends and have fun, and the research backs him up — for mental health as well as physical fitness. A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that seniors who danced three to four times a week — especially those who ballroom danced — had a 75 percent lower risk of dementia compared with people who didn’t dance at all.
Despite a recent New York Times article debunking the “myth” that exercise builds strong bones, it’s still essential for good health, particularly for the older set. While bone growth may be minimal, weight-bearing exercise does decrease the risk of bone fracture, thanks to stronger muscles. And exercise has been shown to slow brain aging by a decade. So your reverse mortgage clients would be smart to tie on those dancing shoes.
Jump into Health and Fitness
A step back from dancing is bouncing. I’ve been rebounding, or jumping on a mini-trampoline, for more than 20 years. Like dancing, rebounding increases cardiovascular functioning, flexibility and balance, so seniors can jump for joy that they’re heart-smart, toned and able to touch their toes. The rebounder’s small size and taut mat make it easy to control movement, and it’s not necessary to bounce high for benefit: you can bounce without your feet ever leaving the mat.
Eighty-year-old cancer survivor Dr. James Rota explains the benefits of what he calls Bouncercise in this short video. My personal favorite rebounder for health and detoxification is made by Needak Rebounders, which offers an optional stabilizing bar attachment that creates a handhold for those who need additional support. Bouncing is a great way to protect precious elder knees, ankles and other joints while getting a full-body workout.
Take A Hike
If dancing or bouncing doesn’t get a senior’s groove on, perhaps the great outdoors holds more appeal. One septuagenarian hiked the 2180-plus mile Appalachian Trail in 2015 with his son, and brought home a backpack full of photos and once-in-a-lifetime memories to share at his local senior center. “Ironman Bill” braved ice, snow, and other weather challenges, took a brief break to nurse a knee injury, reveled in the astonishing beauty of nature, and returned with a strong sense of accomplishment.
Whatever form of fitness seniors choose, it’s important to stick with it as though they’re in training for the contact sport called aging — because we are.