Seniors & Aging: Keeping fit – Physically and mentally

We had a recent segment on my radio show (Life Unrehearsed, CJAD 800 every Sunday from 4:00pm – 5:00pm with Stephanie Erickson) where the topic was people’s perception on aging.  We had a whole host of answers from young children to seniors.  One of the most popular answers came from a 91-year-old who had a simple one liner: “Use it or lose it”.  This resonated with a lot of people because it is an accurate statement that applies to both physical and mental states.

The health benefits of staying physically fit and mentally sharp are well documented.  However, there may be situations in one’s life where it’s easier said than done.  Taking conscious and proactive measures will prolong your health and well being.  In the case of seniors, the best defence is a good offence.  So here are a few simple suggestions that you should consider:

Physically Fit Initiatives   

According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, the national voice for exercise science in Canada, adults aged 65 years and older should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

Examples of moderate-intensity physical activities include brisk walking and bicycling.  Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activities include: cross-country skiing and swimming. 

Choose something that interests you.  Play a sport that you enjoy.  Join a dance class.  Try out aqua fitness which is becoming more and more popular particularly for those experiencing arthritis and other physically limiting disabilities.  As the weather improves, establish a gardening or landscaping project that you could manage on your own. 

The Canadian Public Health Agency suggests you start slowly; listen to your body and every step counts.  Talk to your family and friends about your desire to increase physical activity.  Before you know it, there will be group activities planned and the net result will be a positive outcome to your health and well being.

Mentally Fit Initiatives

The side benefit to keeping physically fit is that it will actually improve your mental fitness.  Exercise is essential not just for the body but for the mind as well.  There are many studies that demonstrate that keeping mentally fit will decrease your risk of cognitive decline.

Some simple recommendations include keeping your brain active.  This can be accomplished through brain games such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, reading a book or magazine.

Increase your social activities.  If you are an extrovert, be proactive and organize some social events with friends or family.  If you are an introvert, try to step out of your comfort zone.  There are more and more studies that demonstrate the benefits of social activity.  It can be as simple as a coffee or drinks with friends or an organized event like traveling together or volunteering together for a noble cause.

Get your sleep!!!  It is suggested that 7-8 hours per night of relatively uninterrupted sleep is beneficial. Yes, we need to build in a little interruption for that bladder that can no longer make it through the night!!  Naps are also beneficial.  

Finally, see your doctor on a regular basis and be sure to take all your medication consistently and during the recommended time of day.

Matt Del Vecchio is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging (CPCA). He is the founder and president of Lianas, a company specializing in retirement residence search and senior transition support, and writes a regular blog at He can be reached at

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