Dear Parenting Parents:
Caring for elderly parents can be an uphill climb.
But the best thing you might be able to do is lift your parents up—preferably out of their chairs. Studies show that adults 65 years of age and older (a large group that makes up 16.5 percent of the US population) spend 65 to 80 percent of their waking time sitting. This sedentary state is caustic—deteriorating all aspects of our elders' health from the strength of their hearts to their sense of independence (Galloza, 2017).
As in all stages of life, exercise is key to helping your parents feel better and prevent future decline. But the type of exercise you tell your parents to try should be custom-tailored to their age, and, in some cases, supervised.
For example, studies show older adults benefit from raising their heart rate aerobically, just like you would. But while you may sweat it out in an hour-long spinning class, older adults should exercise aerobically for 30 minutes at least three times per week and choose activities that allow them to simultaneously hold a conversation, like walking (or cycling on a stationary bike if weight-bearing activities cause pain). Just like you, parents also benefit from strength, balance, and flexibility training—as long as these routines are dialed in to the needs of their age group (Galloza, 2017).
If you need help motivating your parents, speaking to medical experts may be helpful. Talk to a care team to find out how to get your parents on the move towards better health.