Posts Tagged exercise for seniors

Go Swimming


Summer is officially in full swing, so that means it’s beach/pool time! Swimming is great exercise because the water offer resistance, yet it’s low impact. Those with memory loss can certainly enjoy a day of swimming (or wading, or just sticking a toe in!) in the water. As with any activity, you’ll want to make appropriate precautions based on the person’s level of impairment. This can range from just making sure they wear extra sunscreen, as many medications make you more prone to burning in the sun, to chosing a less crowded location where teh person is less likely to get overwhelmed, to making sure someone is always providing supervision for safety. Whether you choose a beach or a pool; to swim laps or doggies paddle; wear swim trunks or a speedo, taking some time to enjoy the water can be a fun way to break out of your usual daily routine.

While you’re out, be sure to ask questions that encourage the person to reminisce. You might ask:
How did you learn to swim?
What is your favorite memory involving swimming/the water?
What did bathing suits look like when you were growing up? What do you think about today’s styles?

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Play Indoor Basketball

Photo courtesy from

Photo courtesy from

An over-the-door basketball hoop is a great way to get a little exercise (and blow off steam)! Models such as the one shown above simply hang over the door and use a foam ball to avoid damage from errant throws. Those in the early stage might like it hung in a common area, study, or office to give them something to do in between activities or while they’re working through a block in their memory. Those in the middle stages will likely need to be cued to shoot some hoops as a distinct activity, but men in particular shouldn’t need much instruction-putting the ball in their hand and pointing out the hoop should be all the cueing they need to start playing. Those who are still able to walk can certainly chase after their own ball, those who are unsteady on their feet may need a ball boy or ball girl. You might also find that people are more willing to play if you take turns shooting with them or play simple games such as who can make the most baskets out of ten throws, etc..

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Play with a Fidget Blanket/Apron


Fidget blankets or aprons are way to keep the hands busy of those with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. They feature different textures to feel and simple activities to do, such as zipping and unzipping a zipper. Some people prefer to use blankets, which feel “natural” to keep on their lap for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Others like to use aprons because they can be worn, and tend to stay in place better than blankets, especially if the person with memory loss likes to get up and move around a lot.

You can purchase them online at stores that cater to Alzheimer’s patients or if you’re crafty, you can make your own using your imagination or as your guide. If you are of the crafty persuasion, some ideas to include are:
1. Different textured fabrics, such as velvet, faux fir, chenille, even burlap or sponges!
2. Zippers
3. Lengths of ribbon for tying, braiding, or just petting
4. Buttons (and button holes to put them in, if you’re an advanced sewer.
5. Beads on a length of string secure on both end. Warning! Make sure they are very secure and the string is very strong! You don’t want it to break and the person to put a bead in their mouth and choke on it!
6. Something velcro that can be stuck on and off (make sure the unsecured piece is attached by a string so it doesn’t go missing!)
7. Fringed edges to play with
8. Something to lace up.
9. A flap that can be snapped and unsnapped.
10. A pocket to keep hidden treasures, such as a stress ball.

Here are some examples:
homemade figet blanket
This blanket was homemade. See the original post here.

This apron (and others like it) are available for sale here on I love that this one has a distinctly masculine feel.

This option can fit on the arms of a wheelchair or just be place on the person’s lap. You can buy it here.

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Go for a Bike Ride

bikw 3

As the weather warms up, many of us get the itch to get outdoors, and a person with dementia is not immune to this desire for sunshine and fresh air. A bike ride is a great way to get outside and get some exercise. Whether you decide to go around the block, ride some trails at your local park, or just take a bike instead of a car to run your errands, you and the person with memory loss can enjoy the scenery and your time together. Not only is riding run, it’s always a great way to tire someone out during the day so they sleep soundly at night, an added bonus if your loved one has a hard time staying in bed at night.

If you or the person with memory loss has balance problems, don’t let that stop you from getting out there and enjoying a bike ride! Three wheeled tricycles aren’t just for kids anymore! The three-wheeled design makes them very steady, and the large basket means you pack lots of snacks, an extra layer of clothes, some activities for when you stop to take a break, etc! Once very expensive and only sold at speciality bike shops or even medical equipment stores, the one pictures below is from, where there are options ranging from $250-$400!

tricycle from sears

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Practice Tai Chi


The following is adapted from

Tai Chi: History, Principles and Theory
Tai Chi originated in China in the 17th century as a martial art and means of self-defense. Today it is practiced all over the world as a therapeutic exercise and health practice in the field of complementary and alternative medicine.

Tai Chi is both a physical, and mental exercise, incorporating the Chinese concepts of yin and yang, or opposing and complementary forces within the body, and Qi (Chi), the vital energy or life force. The movements of Tai Chi are done slowly, with emphasis on balance, breath and relaxation.This results in increased flexibility, coordination, strength and focus. Health benefits of Tai Chi include reduced falls due to improved balance and awareness. The meditative aspects of Tai Chi assist in stress reduction, improvement in arthritis, diabetes, immune system function, sleep, fibromyalgia, fatigue and a number of other ailments.

A number of scientific studies have been done and continue to focus on the benefits of Tai Chi practice for the elderly and in specific disease entities. The deliberate movements combined with breath, have demonstrated to have a profound effect on improving health. The Mayo Clinic has listed Tai Chi as one of the top 10 complementary health practices. A study by Steven Wolf, PhD at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA found that people taking part
in a 15 week program decreased their risk of falls by 47.5%. UConn Health Center in Farmington, CT conducted a study that showed Tai Chi to be an effective intervention to improve strength and balance. An article by Dr. Oz, written in the January 31, 2011 issue of Time Magazine reports a 2006 study from New Zealand revealed that “Tai Chi improved the overall mood in patients with traumatic brain injury in a number of ways, including decreasing sadness (12%), confusion (12%), anger (8%), tension (15%), and fear (10%) and increasing energy (14%) and happiness (7%).”

For the patient with Alzheimer’s, following simple movements with repetition offers a means of exercise without increased mental or physical stress. Though there is no evidence that Tai Chi prevents the progression of Alzheimer’s, there is evidence that new neural pathways are developed in the brain. The effect of this may manifest in the slowing of symptoms. An Alzheimer’s patient can experience all of the other benefits of Tai Chi including increased flexibility, evidenced by an increased ability to perform activities of daily living and a decrease in illness as the result of improved breathing and overall immune system function. Quality of life is improved for both patient and caregiver. As an activity that can be done alone or in a group as a means of social contact, Tai Chi helps connect us to our self and to our

For the full article, please click here.

There are many DVDs that can help you get started, but personally I recommend taking a class instead. It’s much easier to learn from someone you can interact with, and it may help prevent injury to have someone correct your movements if necessary. It’s also easier for many of us to do something if it’s scheduled rather than relying on our own motivation to pop the tape in the DVD player. Many health clubs, senior centers, YMCAs, and community learning centers offer beginning Tai Chi classes, many of which may be geared specifically towards seniors. Those in the early stages of memory loss can probably participate in a small group class independently, but it may be easier if they have a “buddy” who can help repeat instructions if necessary. Besides, Tai Chi isn’t just good for those with memory loss, so no one has an excuse to sit this one out!

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Dance with a Kinect


Before we can really even start this post, I need you to go here.  Go ahead, I’ll wait. 

Okay.  Now that you’re back, if you don’t know what the Kinect game screen looks like, visit here for a peak.

Clearly this lady is having a ton of fun.  I have no idea what her cognitive status is, but that doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters is that the Kinect dance games are very intuitive. You simply listen to the music, watch the dancers on-screen, and mimic their movements.  Those in the later stages of the disease may find it easier to follow the moves or a real life person (which means you get to dance, too). A player with any amount of dementia may need help getting the right song playing, but the dancing should come pretty naturally.  Someone, please correct me if I’m wrong, but even if you’re moves don’t match the game at all, the song won’t end early, right?  So even if you make up your own dance, it doesn’t really matter, though it’s lots of fun to see if you can do it!

Two popular dancing-games using the connect are Just Dance and Dance Central.  Both have multiple version out there, and there are probably many other games with a similar concept as well.  Know of one?  Leave it in the comments!




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