Good Health: How to Get Your Grandparent Moving

Do you ever wonder how you can get your grandparent or older parent moving?  Physical activity increases one’s quality of life.  So, we push for it.  Yet, there is always so much resistance! Having worked in senior fitness for about two years, I’ve watched this scenario play out more than a few times.

If you have a grandparent or older parent who is not motivated to exercise, how can you get them moving?

For today’s post, I picked the brain of Suzy Goodwin, a friend and former employee at Silver Sneakers.  It was so fun to chat! When Suzy is 80, she probably will still be running marathons, but for now, she is under 40 and a powerhouse. Her goal currently is to run a marathon or ultramarathon in 50 states by the time she hits 40.  She is so close!  Oh and that’s not it.  A few years back, Suzy broke the Guinness Book of World Records by running the fastest half-marathon time while pushing her triplets.  GET OUT!!!?!?  I could write a whole post on my amazement of her feat, but I digress.

How Do You Get Your Grandparents Moving?

Coffee and Community.  Suzy worked on the business side of Silver Sneakers, a program for active older adults, and in her role, she worked with gym managers to see how they could bring in more older adults to their gyms through Silver Sneakers classes.  The most successful gym managers realized that the older men and women who frequented the Silver Sneakers classes did not come purely for exercise.  Coffee afterwards lured them in and even more, they came for community.

If you’re gym rat who work outs when water aerobics classes are held, take a look around.  The same crew. At my gym, a bunch of ladies are always in the locker room after water aerobics and boy do they chat away.  After they’re done showering and such, I always hear someone announce where they plan to congregate next.  “Starbucks today!”

Convincing people exercise (at whatever age) is almost impossible. If you have a grandparent who you want to exercise, my main recommendation is to incorporate a social aspect to it.  Coffee and community!  Here’s a tip: Be willing to sacrifice some of your own time if you truly want Grandma or Mom/Dad to get fit.  Maybe you will hang out with Grandpa and walk with him three times a week. Or when you visit, you will take out the free weights and do a few reps together.  As you walk, lift, job, or square dance, don’t forget to talk up some great conversation.

The Main Motivation to Exercise

Six-packs and beach bodies may motivate the younger crowd to exercise.  But when our loved ones are 80 or 90, however, the main benefit and motivator is physical fitness is not about gain, but more about what our loved one can hold onto. 

Suzy’s grandma, at 90, is part of family dinners, which includes four generations of their family every Sunday night.  Her grandma’s regular swimming routine at Arthritis Foundation approved pools contributes greatly to her health. And because she is still active, it allows her to stay involved and enjoy family time.

When trying to encourage your grandparent to move, it’s helpful to remember and remind your loved one that exercise allows an older adult to hold onto their strength and independence–that is completely worth it!  

Your Average Older Adult is Stronger These Days

That’s the truth!  Yes, there is a whole jam of older adults who are kicking butt out there in terms of physical activity.  When Suzy first started working at Silver Sneakers, she thought that if you were 65+, exercise was done in a chair.  What she found out was that the average older athlete these days is much more active and stronger than 20 years back. Looking back at her days at the Cross Fit gym, Suzy mentioned that the older athletes were often the best athletes.  WHY? Because they knew their limits and they didn’t have an ego. How’s that??!?

My grandfather, at 97, still walked an hour and 15 minutes every day (except Sunday) like a champ.  What I have found is that people like my grandma, are highly motivated and most of the time the discipline of exercise was established as a lifestyle earlier on.  All that to say, start the habit of exercise now. Yes, at 20, 30, 40 and beyond!

Thank you so much Suzy!

If you liked today’s post, check out last week’s post, Good Health: Why I Ran my First Marathon.