Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Providing Fitness and Recreation Choices for Seniors

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Providing Fitness and Recreation Choices for Seniors

Article excerpt

An innovative new program at Foothills Park and Recreation District in Lakewood, Colorado, called "Active Options" is giving seniors a new incentive to get healthy. Active Options is a fitness and recreation program for persons over 62 years of age, whose mission is to improve the health of older adults in its district.

Research has proven that diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and osteoporosis are chronic diseases that can be improved by increasing regular exercise habits. This program is for any fitness level, but is geared toward chronic-disease prevention and improvement of health for those who already have these diseases. This program gives seniors an opportunity to exercise regularly at a very reasonable rate.

How this Program Came to Be

During my many years working with seniors, both in programming and therapeutic areas, I have heard these sentiments expressed many times:

"My doctor says I need an exercise program to keep my blood pressure down."

"I live on a fixed income."

"There is nowhere to go to rehab a fractured hip when the insurance money runs out!"

"I'd start working out if I had someone to guide and help me each time."

"I hate Spandex and mirrors!"

Using all this information about "why" seniors don't exercise, a program was developed that would address all these concerns using existing resources. Foothills agreed to fund a three-year Active Options pilot program for at-risk older adults. After six months, the program is highly successful, with more than 230 older adults exercising on a regular basis.

Economy, Variety, and Improved Quality of Life

Putting together a package that would appeal to many functional levels of seniors was the first challenge. The title of the program describes what we wanted to achieve. "Active," because we wanted people to know that fitness and exercise were involved, and "Options," so they would know that they would have choices.

Getting started can be intimidating for people of any age, so we wanted to make it a very personal experience. Anyone who expressed interest received a personal phone call from the Active Options coordinator, explaining in detail what they can expect from the program.

A six- or 12-month pass is offered at a very reasonable cost. After the pass is purchased, a personal call is placed by our exercise physiologist to set up a Micro-Fit fitness test. This computerized fitness evaluation lets the person know what their level of fitness is in the beginning phase of the program. Fitness goals and recommendations as to which of the class offerings will help the patron achieve those goals are presented in a one-on-one basis.

For the duration of the pass, a Micro-Fit fitness evaluation is given as part of the package every three months, so progress can be seen in a very visible format. If the patron would like, the results of these tests will be forwarded to their physician. Patrons are reminded and. scheduled by the exercise physiologist for all the retests.

Seeing Results Already

Some of the physical benefits we have seen so far include:

* Increased upper-body strength in over 95 percent of persons enrolled in Senior Strength training

* Increased sociability in all classes (making new friends)

* Increased numbers of older adults working out on their own at our Wellness Center during the day

* Decreased high-blood pressure among most of the patrons who work out regularly

* Increased lower-body strength in members of the Senior Strength Training class, water walking, aquarobics, Fit after 50, and Moving for Life Classes

Personal benefit testimonies -- including having fun, feeling less lonely, having decreased depression, making fewer doctor visits, less medications, having more energy, generally feeling better, being better able to sleep at night, reducing medical costs, making friends, having something to look forward to, and decreased pain -- make it clear that this program is working, and people are feeling good about what Active Options is doing for them. …

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