Seniors know that exercise is important for them to maintain their strength and mobility. But, many of them lack the motivation to exercise. There are many reasons why a senior may not be motivated, such as physical symptoms (joint pain, dizziness, stomach ache, etc), mental health issues (depression, dementia, etc), and lack of assistance.
Our experience with seniors shows that most seniors lack the motivation to exercise because they no longer see the value in making themselves strong and healthy. A senior may have lost a spouse and the resulting depression can weaken their resolve to continue living an active and meaningful life. Others may have been discouraged by frequent illness or hospitalization. During this pandemic, loss of visits from loved ones can have a negative impact on their motivation to be active too.
What we have learned in helping seniors exercise is that we should be creative. We have to appeal to their interests and their emotions. So, the key here is to ask a lot of questions. By asking questions, we are able to discern what makes them happy.
Here are some of the motivators we have used with our senior clients:
Making loved ones happy such as children or grandchildren
Staying independent and not in assisted living
Fear of ending up in a wheelchair
Performing activities similar to sports or hobbies they used to enjoy
Of course, each day may be different. What may appeal to them now may not be true for the next session. So, as therapists, we are always sensitive to what our senior clients feel at that moment or what is on their minds. We make it a point to talk to them and listen to what they say.
We believe that it takes extra effort to be successful in motivating seniors to exercise. It takes a lot of patience, creativity and genuine care. It is also a continuous learning process because it takes time to be able to know what can really motivate a senior to move and stay active. It may be a lot of work but the rewards are many.