Senior Fitness Program

This interview regarding a senior fitness program took place at an assisted living community.  It gives an idea of the extent some assisted living communities go to to plan a program to keep seniors healthy at retirement facilities that focus on senior wellness.

Description of Senior Fitness Program/Background:

A brand new fitness center is set to be unveiled in this Senior Assisted Living Community. The new center will have a giant fitness room with state-of-the art strength training and cardio equipment. The center will also have an Olympic sized swimming pool, as well as several mirrored rooms for conducting group exercise classes such as Tai-Chi, yoga and low-impact aerobics. The center will also have a community room where health education lectures and social gatherings can be held.

The Community Foundation has invested quite a large amount of its funds in this new facility and so it desires a successful senior fitness program to get seniors involved. The community needs to implement a senior fitness program which will get seniors involved and excited about their new facility. The program to serve this function is titled Seniors Act! The ultimate goal of this senior fitness program is to build healthier lifestyles for seniors living in the community.

Q: What major health problem will the senior fitness program address?

A: We will target overall cardiovascular health, flexibility, but most of all muscle strength and endurance. The method which the senior fitness program uses to make improvements in the health and well-being of the seniors is cardio and strength training exercise. 

While many seniors may already incorporate walking or another low-impact cardio exercise into their lifestyle, many seniors may not know the benefits and need for strength training exercises. 

Some background facts and data about strength training are: 

There's only one way to stop your muscles from wasting away: strength training.

It doesn't matter if you're 40 years old or 75 years old, if you don't build muscle, you'll lose muscle," claims Dr. William Evans, from Penn State University. 

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported findings for a group of 96-year-old men, who increased lower extremity strength ranging from 61 percent to an enormous 374 percent over their initial baseline values, some after only eight weeks of training. The American Journal of Physiology also reported that elderly men could double their leg strength just by participating in a 12 week weight lifting program.

The Journal of Physical Therapy reported that estimated bone loss from its peak in young adulthood to 80 years of age is comparable to the reported 35-45 percent decline in muscle strength during the same life-span. The stimulus applied through strength training stresses the bone to increase bone mineral content. A strength training program provides the benefit of a positive stimulus to counteract some of the natural loss of bone occurring with age. (see ref #2)

Ref #1

Ref #2

Q: Who is Target Audience:

A: The target audience for the senior fitness program will be the seniors living in the Senior Community. These individuals are at least 65 years of age and the average age is 70 years of age.

Q: What is the Purpose of the Senior Fitness Program?

The purpose of the senior fitness program is to teach seniors in the community about why they should incorporate cardio and strength training exercises into their lifestyle. The purpose of Seniors Act! is to attract participants to the new facility and ease any fears that seniors may have about exercise. In the end we would like to create a healthier and better informed population of seniors in the community.

The Program is to expose seniors to the vast array of health benefits which are linked to a lifestyle which includes both cardio and strength training exercises. Seniors will build awareness and confidence about their individual fitness needs. Seniors will be inspired to slowly begin an exercise routine at the new fitness facility. Seniors Act! will be a fun, educational, and beneficial program which will increase knowledge and build skills for the seniors in the Community.

Q: Who will make up the planning committee and decision makers?

A: There will be a health promotion specialist employed to carry out the day-to-day details of the planning, implementing, and evaluating of the program. There will also be several assistants who will be certified physical fitness trainers. These assistants will be available on-site during normal operating hours to answer any questions and to instruct the seniors how to use the equipment. There will also be employees who will lead group exercise classes for the seniors. 

  • Seniors believe that they are susceptible to a serious health problem. The perceived threat of a condition will serve as a motivational tool. Seniors are targeted here because they know the fact that they are aging, and with age comes declining health if there are no pro-active steps taken.
  • The next step is letting the seniors know that a particular health action (exercising at the facility) is beneficial in reducing the perceived threat. Self-efficacy is also a perceived barrier at this stage. 

This is a huge point of the program planning: being aware of the barriers, and taking action to prevent them before they become a real problem. Some of the barriers that seniors specifically face are:

1) "Seniors will be hesitant to initiate exercise programs because they fear that they will overdo it." (See Ref 3) 

This means starting slowly also allowing seniors to build their own confidence about the exercise they are doing. The way we will do this in our Program is to tell seniors to start off their strength training classes with simple soup cans. These lightweight cans will allow seniors to become familiar with the exercises first, then move on to the heavier weight machines and free weights at the facility. Once they feel confidant enough to give up their 1 lb cans, they can feel good about the fact that they have graduated onto more sophisticated weights.

2) There will be a diverse set of weights, machines, and other equipment. There will also be a variety of group exercise programs as well as opportunities to attend health education lectures. 

3) "Create Exercise Prescriptions" every senior that signs up for the Program will get individual attention and personalized training in order to meet each person's individual needs. A trainer will talk one-on-one with each participant and guide them through a unique exercise 

Ref 3 Health Fitness Management, Human Kinetics, 1998

1) "Create a Friendly Environment" - We will train our staff to recognize the special needs of older adults. The facility will be laid out so that it is easy to access and seniors will hopefully get much personal joy from each trip to the facility. This will all be accomplished by hiring the appropriate staff. 

2 "Develop membership structures" Membership details will be easily solved at the facility because all community members will be invited to participate at no additional cost. The seniors at the community are already paying a fee to be a member and so this will only expand the member benefits which they already receive.


Once the Program is completed (including the complete tour of the exercise options at the facility, individual counseling sessions and exercise prescriptions, community health lectures, and special group events/celebrations for participants) we will conclude with our follow-up survey for the program. Once the program is evaluated we will make the appropriate changes and hopefully continue the program in the coming months so that seniors can continue to stay fit and educated!

Always consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

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