Being active is for everyone, no matter your age. Senior citizens are the largest population demographic in America to date, and when it comes to staying healthy, we’re just as committed to helping them as we are any other age group.
Lack of activity — in conjunction with obesity — is the leading cause of injury and health issues for the senior demographic, soon to be a quarter of the population. Conversely, staying physically active can fight depression and reduce the risk of falling.
With 46 million Americans over the age of 65 — a number projected to double to more than 98 million senior citizens by 2060 — it goes without saying that creating programs that keep seniors active in their communities will make a significant difference for a huge part of your audience.
6 WAYS PARKS AND RECREATION DIRECTORS CAN PROVIDE ACTIVITIES FOR SENIORS
Offer Low-Impact Activities
- Yoga strengthens the core and employs breathing techniques, which reduce both anxiety and the likelihood of falling.
- Pilates is a great alternative for seniors turned off by the potential spiritual aspects of yoga. Pilates exercises focus on flexibility, strength, and meditative breathing.
- Swimming, which is considered resistance training, strengthens nearly every muscle in the body without stressing joints.
- Tai chi, often described as “meditation in motion,” is a traditional Chinese exercise technique that gently improves strength, flexibility, and range of motion. The results of one study showed that tai chi reduced falls for seniors by as much as 55 percent over six weeks.
- Group walking is a great activity for seniors and has two hidden benefits: sunshine and sociability. As people age, social circles can shrink and partners can pass on, leaving seniors at risk of isolation and depression. Walking can help them get a little vitamin D and even make a few new friends. It’s also a great family event.
- Cycling is an ideal activity for seniors wishing to improve their cardiovascular health and leg strength without high-impact stress on their knees. Outdoor cycling can double as a city tour, and indoor cycling is a good option for seniors struggling with balance or vision.
Warm hearts with calisthenics and a little nostalgia. Parks and recreation directors can revitalize virtually any existing classes for senior citizens with a catchy retro theme (retro attire encouraged):
- Sock Hop Dance-a-thon
- Funky Disco Workout
- Speakeasy Party
- Swing Night
Invite Grandparents to Participate in Existing Kids’ Programs
Grandparents no longer have to sit on the sidelines. Create a family event by opening your kids’ programs to make space for parents and grandparents.
- Relays, 1Ks, and biking events can be fun family events.
- Gardening workshops, arts and crafts, kite flying, and guided walks through the park are gentler options for quality time together.
Hungry for even more event inspiration? Browse our list of 8 Cutting-Edge Programs for Parks & Recreation.
Cater to Senior Citizens’ Specific Needs
Helping the older demographic in your community goes beyond providing activities for seniors: Show them you understand and are willing to accommodate their needs in every communication, including online, in print, and in person.
- Offer large-print programming guides.
- Provide sign language interpreters at events.
- Give senior discounts on enrollments and registrations.
- Ensure and advertise that all activities are able to accommodate varying levels of ability.
- Provide chair-exercise classes.
Offer Activities for Couples
One positive development over the years has been that the life expectancy of men has grown to nearly that of women today. This means more couples living out longer lives together.
Couples who are physically active together are happier, more closely bonded, and more likely to meet their health and fitness goals. Consider these date night ideas:
- Senior prom
- Couples dance classes (ballroom, salsa, country)
- Couples yoga
- Table tennis
- Outdoor painting or drawing
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Technology
- Wii Fit: This is a perfect rainy-day activity challenge for “exer-gamers” of all ages. Wii Fit is growing in popularity among the medical community as a prescription to improve balance and reduce falls among seniors. (In one study, elderly participants were able to lower their predicated age by eight years as they used their Wii Fit — just by improving their balance in a few short sessions.)
Players can enjoy numerous virtual activities indoors, such as:
- Balance games
- Strength training
- Geocaching hunts are a wonderful activity for seniors, enabling them to commune with nature, explore city parks, and move at their own pace. Why not encourage teams to make it a family event?
Planning recreational activities for seniors — and all age demographics — helps parks and recreation directors ensure that no one in your community will feel forgotten.
Whether we’re seniors ourselves or close with seniors in our families and communities, it’s important to create a world that respects and nourishes our elders’ bodies and souls.
For parks and recreation directors, there are plenty of programming needs beyond planning activities for seniors. Millennials are the second largest age demographic — download our free white paper “40 Adult Recreation Programs to Add to Your Offerings” to start brainstorming ways to reach them.