Staying active and fit in the winter can be difficult when the weather is dreary and gray. For seniors, fitness is even more crucial, but also even more difficult to maintain during this chilly time of year. As GLBT seniors in particular can experience isolation during these winter moths. However, with the help and tips of various senior health services, seniors don’t have to go about it alone.
Horizon Health Services, based out of Pierz, Minnesota, encourages seniors to maintain their mental and physical fitness all year long, especially during the winter months. Because the days are shorter and people don’t get to spend as much time outside as they would like, Horizon Health Services believes that winter typically has a pretty negative impact on the lives of Minnesotan seniors. To avoid the boredom of mundane winter days, Horizon Health Services suggests that seniors exercise their brains and their bodies with indoor activities including reading, crossword puzzles, exercise, listening to music, and playing cards or other board games.
Reading doesn’t just help pass the time, but it also exercises the mind. While reading newspapers and magazines is still important, it’s essential that seniors read longer books to pass more time and give them more to think about. Also, a trip to the library can give seniors the opportunity to both pick out some good reads and get out and about during the winter months.
Working on crossword puzzles is a great workout for the brain by keeping it fresh and active. Not only is it a good activity for seniors to do on their own, but it can also bring people together. Working on crossword puzzles with friends, family, or significant others can help strengthen interpersonal relationships while still giving the mind a good workout.
It may be obvious, but that’s for a good reason. Exercise can give seniors an easy way to stay physically fit and active, perhaps without even leaving the house. Walking on a treadmill for only 20-30 minutes each day is easy, but still effective for seniors to stay healthy during the winter. If they’re looking for a chance to get out of the house, walking around the neighborhood for the same amount of time is a great way to get exercise and fresh air.
Playing music is not only fun, but it’s also an easy way to keep the mind active. Listening to their favorites can give seniors a more positive outlook on life, even during the dreariest time of the year. Also, repeatedly listening to the same records can help give their memories exercise, too, something we could all use a little more of during this time of year.
Lastly, playing cards or other games can help seniors stay active during the winter months by giving them an opportunity to socialize and exercise their minds. Trying new games, playing the classics, and everything in between is a great way for seniors to stay mentally active during these cold months.
Similar to Horizon Health Services, Twin Cities-based Above & Beyond Senior Services offers seniors guidance and support with their physical and mental health. Above & Beyond President Allison Bakke believes that maintaining fitness doesn’t need to be an impossible task for seniors during the winter months.
“Remember to drink water throughout your day, staying hydrated is critical to good health. Also, keeping up with an exercise routine that includes both strengthening and cardiovascular components is extremely helpful. At a minimum, shoot for two days per week of activity, more is better,” she says.
Bakke also suggests that maintaining mental health is just as important as physical health. She suggests staying engaged with family and friends, avoiding isolation, using public transportation to avoid going out alone, and creating a proactive plan with caregivers to prepare for the effects of the season on their mood.
Walking with a friend or family member and getting as much fresh air as possible can be beneficial with dealing with seasonal sadness, according to Bakke.
“We frequently see many seniors who feel depressed or blue during the winter and holiday months. There are many reasons for this: less sunlight in our days, holiday related stress, loss of friends or partners through death, changing routines and abilities as aging occurs, feelings of lost independence. These are all challenging realities of the aging process. The number one thing to do is talk to a trusted support person, get help to process your feelings,” she says.
Bakke suggests Dancing With Elephants: Mindfulness Training for Those Living with Dementia, Chronic Illness,
or an Aging Brain by Jarem Sawatsky for seniors to read during the winter months.
For more information on how seniors can stay active during the winter, visit Above and Beyond Senior Services at http://aboveservices.com, and Horizon Health Services at http://www.horizonhealthservices.org.
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