Inspiring seniors to maintain a healthy lifestyle as they move into their senior years

The senior wellness programme that was set up at St Matthews Church in Burlington in Sept 2013 has been engaging the seniors in the Aldershot community. Its purpose is to educate and inspire seniors to maintain a healthy lifestyle as they move into their senior years. There are several components of health that have to be addressed in this situation.

Seniors need to know what they have to pay attention to as they get older. Nutrition is one of those aspects of life which is not addressed from a senior perspective. Physiology is different as we age and nutritional needs change. And seniors do not learn the same way as they get older so talks have to be very interactive with the participants.

Basic exercise is important but cardio workouts have to be adapted to the older person’s capacity so that it is easy and fun. I have set up an exercise programme which is easy, engages all major muscle groups and also has stretching, strengthening and balance components. We pay attention to foot care and stimulate the bottom of the feet with a foot roller to encourage circulation and balance in the feet.

There is a need to teach seniors how to do deep breathing as this increases oxygenation and improves attention span. Seniors do tend to breathe in a very shallow way which does not optimize oxygen to essential tissues.

At various points in the exercise class and the lecture series, we all get up and march around the room, paying attention to how we are walking and deep breathing at the same time. This improves attention span throughout the class

Educational material
I have set up a 10 week schedule of lectures which are led by professionals who are senior friendly. In other words, professionals who know how to teach basics without making it too complicated and give essential information which they can incorporate into their daily lives. I have included a list of the senior talks and topics. I ask people who live and work in the area where the talks are given so that it does not inconvenience them very much. They also bring the basic info on handouts that the seniors can take home with them. Active participation is encouraged.

Nutritional Supplements
I have observed that seniors need some direction in terms of choosing nutritional supplements. The people that I have spoken to tend to go to a health food store, buy what they think they should have, which normally costs too much on a fixed income and they tend to buy the same thing several times, different packaging and they don’t realize that it is the same thing and not necessarily beneficial.

Basic nutrition for seniors should include: Vitamin B12 and Folic acid, Omega 3 fish oil or Flax seed, Fiber, Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C. These can be obtained easily and do not cost a lot. I have made these supplements available to the senior population in my neighbourhood, which is Aldershot, for a reasonable price.

As a result of our efforts, we have an active group of seniors at St Matthews Church who are eagerly following the protocols that have been set up for them and they are helping each other during the week, apart from the class time when we get together. It is forming a community of people who care about each other as well as a few reclusive people who also come but don’t participate fully. The next steps are completely up to their wishes.