In 2016, the United States reached a historical milestone: for the first time, the population of individuals over 65 years old surpassed 50 million. With this surge of seniors comes longer life expectancies and several challenges that the U.S. must address in order to provide for, protect, and prioritize its own. Health (and health insurance) in particular come to the forefront of my mind when I consider the needs of seniors, likely because of the work that Fifth Tribe has done with AARP and our interests in the eldercare market (check out the work we did for AARP Foundation Property Tax-Aide Program here). For these reasons, I think it’s important to recognize today’s sponsored significance: today is the 26th annual National Senior Health and Fitness Day!
I turned to my Fifth Tribe team for ideas about how we could integrate today’s national health and wellness event with the digital space. Simply put, my first thought would not be to characterize seniors as particularly “tech-savvy” (sorry, Grandpa). However, though the older generations have lower rates of technology adoption, they are more connected than ever; more than half of people aged 65 years and older now have smartphones. Society as a whole has continued to embrace technology and evolve digitally, but I find it compelling – and underrated – how older generations are doing so, particularly because they (unlike many of us) were not born into a digital world. I took to the desks around mine (and *cough, cough, the Internet*) to find out how seniors are using technology to stay healthy and fit. If you know someone in your life who might benefit from exercising their tech thumb (no pun intended), make sure to pass these ideas along!
For the seniors who don’t have smartphones, prefer the ease of desktop computers or laptops, or simply don’t want to leave the comforts of home for fitness classes, Youtube has a varied collection of senior-friendly exercise and stretching routines. One of my coworkers mentioned that her grandmother is a loyal fan of Grow Young Fitness. This channel by Deron Buboltz features videos that are focused on increasing flexibility, balance, and strength. His workouts can be done in around 15 minutes or less, or can be coupled together for a longer routine! Consistently doing fitness videos on Youtube can promote general health and well-being, help with pain relief, and cultivate stronger fall prevention – all for free and from home!
Considering the overwhelming amount of options for fitness and activity trackers that are on the market, it can be an almost herculean task for seniors and/or their family members/caregivers to choose which one to invest in. Few are created with older generations in mind, but ironically, the older generation can benefit the most from the lifestyles that fitness trackers can help to promote: generally speaking, fitness trackers can track the amount of steps/stairs taken a day, heart rate, quality of sleep, etc. Knowing this information can cultivate habits that can prevent (or at least curtail) health threats that face older individuals. Depending on how “tech-savvy” you (or the senior in your life) are, functionality preferences, and budget, there is a fitness tracker for you; check out this recent piece, The Best Fitness Trackers for Seniors/The Elderly of 2019 by The Best for Seniors. My grandmother loves her Fitbit because it tracks her steps as she’s doing home and garden work, and it tracks her heart rate during her aerobics classes so that she can make sure that she’s staying in a safe range. In this way, fitness trackers can also help keep our loved ones safe! The newest version of the Apple Watch (for the digitally fluent) can detect falls and take ECGs.
Don’t get me wrong – I understand how capacious the Apple Store can seem when you’re app hunting (don’t even ask me how many food delivery apps I have on my phone… I know it’s a problem). However, I’ve done the work for you and have narrowed down some of the best options to keep seniors’ minds and bodies active and healthy:
- Lumosity (iOS, GooglePlay)
- This brain games app features daily challenges, workout modes, training insights, and mindfulness training that cultivates stronger critical thinking, memory, and problem-solving skills. Although it can be used by anyone of any age, it’s a great choice for seniors who are looking to keep their minds sharp.
- Map My Walk (iOS, GooglePlay)
- Another coworker of mine mentioned that her grandfather stays in shape by going on daily walks. With this habit on my mind, I came across this mobile application by Under Armour. Walking is a great option for seniors who are looking to increase or maintain their activity (and vitality!) levels, and this app is particularly user- and senior-friendly; it uses the GPS in a phone to map out walking routes, records workout details and progress history (duration, distance, speed, elevation, etc.), and tracks the number of calories burned.
- Silver Sneakers
- A health and fitness program designed specifically for adults over 65 years old, Silver Sneakers has over 16,000+ participating locations around the country, offers 70+ different fitness classes, and hosts a network of on-demand videos – plus, membership is included with many Medicare plans! Check your eligibility here. This membership is a fantastic option for former “gym rats” who want to continue their routine, seniors who are looking to (safely) amp up their fitness levels, or older individuals who want to connect with other people their age. Additionally, the Silver Sneakers GO app (iOS, GooglePlay) is the first fitness application designed specifically for seniors and offers at-home, easy-to-follow fitness and stretching videos focused on either Strength, Walking, or Meditation – all of which can be adjusted to an individual’s comfort level.
We probably all have a few seniors in our life whose well-being, health, and livelihood we care deeply about. One of the best ways that anyone – regardless of age – can pursue a long, happy, and balanced life is to invest time and energy into their health. On National Senior Health and Fitness Day, let’s celebrate the ways in which our older loved ones stay healthy and fit; and everyday, let’s show our appreciation and love for our senior family members and friends by letting them know, in whatever way we can, that we care about their well-being.