Exercise is important for everyone, especially seniors, and walking is one of the best types of exercise that seniors can do. Walking is so gentle that most people can do it, regardless of their current level of fitness. It doesn't wear out the joints, which is important for seniors with arthritis, but it does strengthen important muscles in the legs, hips, and abdominals. Seniors who walk on a daily basis are less susceptible to health problems like heart disease and osteoporosis, they're less likely to suffer falls, and they're more likely to maintain their independence and happiness as time goes on.
If you're a home caregiver, here are five ways you can make walking with seniors your (and their) favorite part of the day.
1. Play games as you walk.
Playing a simple game like "I Spy" or devising an on-the-go scavenger hunt can be an easy way for home caregivers to make walking more fun for clients. See who can count more objects of a certain color, for instance, or take turns guessing what the other person is looking at. You can also play a game like 20 Questions to keep clients engaged during your walks.
2. Walk with a destination in mind.
Walking can be more fun if you're actually going somewhere specific. Pick a destination that your client would like to visit (or ask them to come up with a few places they'd like to go within walking distance). A few ideas might include a cafe, a farmer's market, or a nearby park. The walk will feel like nothing when there's a basket of fresh produce or a hot cup of tea waiting at the end of it!
3. Invite seniors to reminisce while walking.
Seniors who hire home care services have often lived in their homes and neighborhoods for decades, and they probably have lots of memories tied up in the streets where they live. If the area has suitable sidewalks, head out for a neighborhood walk with a client and ask them to tell you stories about the place. You'll probably find that they have a lot to say about past and present neighbors and big events that happened nearby. Your client may even be motivated to walk farther than usual if they enjoy giving you a tour of the past!
4. Stop and chat with others.
Socializing, like exercising, is an important part of life that many seniors don't engage in enough. Do double duty with your walks by encouraging clients to stop along the way and chat with neighbors or friends who are also outside enjoying the weather. This is an especially effective approach if your client likes to walk in their own neighborhood, since they probably already know many of the people living nearby. If your client is shy or reserved, help them break the ice with new people, or just use the walk as time to chat with your client yourself — a home caregiver is also a great source of social support for seniors.
5. Take a walk in nature.
Spending more time in nature is healthy for the body and the soul. It's calming and invigorating, and it can even improve long-term health outcomes for seniors. Change up your walks with a client by taking them to a park or nature preserve. Just make sure to pick a path that works for your client. Some seniors can handle long trail hikes with no problems, for instance, while others — especially those with mobility challenges — will need to take shorter, easier walks.
The Benefits of Walking for Seniors
Walking is a simple and effective workout that anyone can do for better health. This type of gentle, low-impact cardiovascular exercise is especially beneficial for seniors, so it's a good idea for home caregiving professionals to encourage their clients to walk on a regular basis. Taking walks day in and day out can get tedious, though, no matter how seriously a senior takes their exercise. It's important to find ways to mix it up and keep things fun when you're walking with seniors. People who work in home care services can use the ideas in this article to keep their everyday walks with seniors fresh and exciting.