There are many rites of passage in a person’s life that are met with great excitement and anticipation, such as obtaining a driver’s license or using a voting card for the first time. Receiving an application for the AARP when one is 50? Not so much. But with age comes benefits.
In our culture we generally define seniors as those falling in the 60-65-year range, the age set for many insurance benefits and tax breaks, not to mention discounts for entertainment and travel. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of people aged 65 or older will more than double by 2030, and ideas for improving the quality of life for those living longer means increasing activity. Yes, seniors can always pick up a prescription at the drugstore, but they can also use exercise as a prescription for a healthier and happier life.
What are active seniors up to these days? According to the National Institute on Aging, the best kinds of activities for seniors involve endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. These favorite pastimes fit the bill:
There has always been golf and tennis, but now there’s pickle ball! Pickle ball is a sport that keeps the basics of over-the-net court play but uses a hollowed and holey plastic ball—similar to a whiffle ball—and paddles instead of rackets for play on a badminton court. It’s easy to find a place to play in your area by going to usapa.org, the official site for pickleball enthusiasts.
Stretching with yoga or pilates
Yoga is gaining popularity with seniors. It extends the spine, limbers the body and improves blood flow to the brain, heart and circulation overall. Many gyms, community centers, and studios offer yoga (with props included) for older or less-flexible students. For those who prefer to stretch, but not on the ground, chair yoga might be the perfect adaptation. Pilates is similar to yoga in that it stretches the spine and works towards muscle development and core strengthening. These are excellent practices for those with joint problems as these exercises can help improve posture.
Walking and hiking
A stroll along the greenway or a hike on one of the many beautiful trails in our corner of the world is just a few short steps out the door. Hiking is a great way to enjoy the warm weather and, when done regularly, eases joint pain, boosts bone density, improves cardiovascular health and increases circulation. Doing it with other people? Even better!
Seniors have a plethora of travel adventures to choose from these days, from the loosely organized to highly curated. Hillwalk tours are self-guided walking tours through England, Scotland, Ireland and Spain where guests have multiple itinerary options. Eldertreks is another company geared towards the adventurous senior. It is the world’s first adventure travel company designed exclusively for people 50 and over that offers active, off-the-beaten-path, small-group adventures by both land and sea in over 100 countries. Other more educational senior travel companies include Exploritas (formerly known as Elderhostel), Road Scholar and Tauck Tours.
Active seniors need proper footwear and the days of homely orthopedic footwear are gone. Shoe stores are now carrying comfort shoes for seniors that are stylish, functional and can be properly fitted by a professional. Seniors face specific challenges with their feet: feet lose cushioning as they age, and the skin and nails can grow dry and brittle. Many seniors have poor circulation, resulting in slower healing of foot sores. Specific problems that seniors might encounter are corns and calluses (extremely dangerous for people with diabetes), heel spurs (from being overweight), hammertoes (knuckle swelling from a toe that draws the toe back when there isn’t sufficient room for the toe to move), and ingrown toenails. Seniors with diabetes should be vigilant about even minor foot problems as the disease often damages blood vessels that feed the feet.
In addition to Western boots, work boots, and English and Western tack, Western Ways in Forest carries many comfort shoes. Jake Hobson, the buyer for Western Ways, believes that the fit matters. The store carries many brands of supportive footwear that work around a lot of problems including bunions and hammertoes. When buying, he chooses styles that are supportive. One of his favorite brands is San Antonio Shoemakers (SAS), one of a few US companies that hand-craft shoes.
Although Western Ways sells plenty of boots, according to Hobson, “there are fewer boots that actually see a farm than those who do.” Boots are popular footwear at the moment, indicative of style and versatility outweighing necessity. Nevertheless, he insists on a good fit, which applies to all footwear sold at the store: “If it’s not comfortable, it’s not a good choice,” says Hobson.
Drew is another favorite line with active seniors because the shoes are very accommodating to custom orthotics. The store also carries compression socks for people who are on their feet all day, and what Hobson refers to as “big easy socks” that are targeted for diabetics who need loose fitting socks.
Regardless of your leisure or active pursuits, make strides to start with the correct footwear to ensure comfort and flexibility. Seniors can put their best feet forward by making sure they are wearing correctly fitted shoes as they lead balanced, happy and active lifestyles. ✦