15 Exercise Program Alternatives for Senior Care

15 Exercise Program Alternatives for Senior Care

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Coronavirus: Covid-19 Articles

Daily exercise groups are an activity department staple, but with most communities discouraging group activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering how to keep it up. Here are a few ideas to get everyone up and moving together (while separate).
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Daily exercise groups are an activity department staple, but with most communities discouraging group activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering how to keep it up. Here are a few ideas to get everyone up and moving together (while separate).

Movement Still Matters

Your daily group exercise programs are much more than just a good way to start the morning with your residents. Movement is important for all of us, including seniors. Benefits of exercise include:

  • Increases range of motion
  • Increases flexibility
  • Decreases depression and improves mood (thanks, endorphins!)
  • Improves circulation
  • Boosts immune system (quite important now!)
  • Reduces chances of falling
  • Decreases joint pain due to arthritis

Your exercise programs may look a bit different today due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean you should eliminate movement completely. Here are ideas/

Hallway HotSpot

Hallway activities are the new thing in senior communities across the globe. Gathering together in the hallway means residents can stay safely apart while still getting the experience of a group activity. 

Movement groups work great in a hallway setting, as long as you follow good safety practices:

  • Sit residents in their doorway, on a stable chair from their room
  • Close the doors of any residents in the hall who do not wish to participate
  • Don’t use shared objects, like a balloon or beach ball
  • If you do use individual objects, choose ones that can easily be disinfected immediately after use (ribbon wands, etc.)
  • Plan for one activity staff per 10-12 rooms so that you can still give adequate supervision while pacing the hall
  • Defer to your community’s infection control and safety guidelines

Hallway activities that encourage movement can include:

Take a Stroll

Walking is another exercise that is important to residents. Depending on your community’s specific infection control guidelines right now, you may be able to continue with 1:1 walking with residents outside or within your community.

  • Have residents sign up for supervised walking with a member of the activity staff, and then post special “I Can’t Wait to See You” reminders on their door
  • Use your walking time with residents to chat about how they are feeling; follow up with the social worker as needed if you have any concerns
  • Get fresh air by walking in your courtyard or garden
  • Water plants along the way as you walk
  • Encourage residents to drink water before and after your walk
  • Document your walks by designating a certain “mileage” in your community. For example, one lap around the courtyard equals one mile. Then, keep track of how many miles your residents are walking together and share this information in your newsletter or other communications.

6 Virtual Exercise Ideas

If your residents have access to technology like tablets or smart-televisions, you can encourage their participation in virtual exercise groups as well. 

  • You can lead exercise groups via Zoom or video chat
  • Silver Sneakers has a YouTube library of classes to choose from
  • Work with your local senior center or park district to see if they will record short exercise videos for your residents to watch and enjoy
  • Try a chair yoga class via YouTube
  • Have a daily dance party throughout your community where you show a recording of your staff dancing to music; encourage every resident to move along to the beat too. This is an excellent daily celebration reminding everyone (staff too!) that we made it another day in this crazy world.
  • Have a game of virtual catch by taping residents catching and then tossing a ball off camera. Use an app like VideoShop or iMovies to splice the videos together. Consider adding music, like Centerfield, and share it throughout your community. It’s guaranteed to brighten up spirits!

More In-Room Exercise Ideas

Here are a few ways to incorporate movement inside resident rooms, either independently or with staff support:

  • Advertise an Exercise of the Day on your daily communication to residents. Provide one reason why movement is important and then a quick exercise they can do on their own or with staff sometime during that day.
  • Consider purchasing over-the-door basketball hoops for resident rooms so they can shoot hoops safely inside their rooms. A designated garbage can or bucket with a soft ball can also work well.
  • Coordinate a Rise and Shine Stretch before or after breakfast daily in the hallway or over technology

Don’t Forget Activity Staff!

While you are coordinating exercise groups for your residents, don’t forget to schedule movement in for you and your team too. Even a simple stretch before a morning meeting can go a long way to preparing you for the day.

How are you incorporating movement into your community while still abiding within your community’s guidelines? I’d love to hear so that we can all add to our toolbelts and better serve our residents.

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Susan 6th Jan 2021 Activity Director
Hi Jill
I agree that music is something most residents enjoy and can relate to
If the residents enjoyed this and are getting exercise I am not sure you need to change it
I’d say if it isn’t broken don’t fix it
Are you getting bored or are they
Most residents like a routine something they can count
One idea might be to add a thinking portion to the activity
The trick would be including everyone because so many different challenges
You might want to do trial and error
Jill 5th Jan 2021 Volunteer Activities Coordinator
Hi all these ideas are brilliant but most of our residents are either chair bound with sight and hearing problems or mobile with lack of attention. The other difficulty is they are all in bubbles we have 3 and each group are so different. I am struggling to find common ground. The one thing that everyone loves is music so I do a half hour of different types including comedy songs, upbeat, classical and listening. Everyone enjoys this but I would like to do something different as a whole group that includes movement.
Susan 13th Apr 2020 Activity Director
You are very lucky Chyanne
I am sure you are grateful for all you have
Thanks for sharing
Chyanne Kingsland 11th Apr 2020
We have a nice outdoor patio. I use 6 ft tables to space residents out. We play Bingo on laminated cards with wipe off markers, exercise, and have praise and worship outdoors. I have really noticed an upswing in mood as of late.
Gwyneth 10th Apr 2020 Volunteer
I wonder how many got hats in their cupboards, any one got an Easter parade CD, it would be nice if they could walk up the hall with their hats on to the music of IN YOUR EASTER BONNET
Don't know whether this would be possible under the circumstances, but they could distance each other doing it for a laugh, which we all need at the moment. I, myself, am a volunteer, now in my late 80's, still volunteering,, still enjoying it, and love reading all the activities from you wonderful people. Take care of your selves during this epidemic..

Susan 11th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Another great idea
Susan 8th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Thank you for your ideas as well
Nori 8th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Great ideas! Thank you so much!

I work in an Assisted Living Facility, so my tenants are able to move on their own or with a walker/cane.

I've had success with:
1. Hallway exercises (traditional stretches, marching in place, etc.)
2. Hallway dance party (bring a little speaker with 1950's & 1960's dance music, shout out the dance move ("now try the Twist!"), etc.)
3. Hallway children's songs with actions sing-along (I'm a Little Teapot, The Wheels on the Bus, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, etc.)
4. Hallway guided walks/hikes (choose a location/monument, walk/march in place to the location while I describe it ("The waterfall is rushing past, can you feel the cool breeze and the spray?"), high-step over barriers ("Oh, there's a fallen log across our path, let's lift our knees to get over it"), etc.

Right now, I have "Hallway Exercises" scheduled M/W/F for 15 minutes down each of our 4 hallways during the 9am hour: Apartments 1-8 at 9am, Apartments 9-16 at 9:15am, etc. I set a timer for 12-13 minutes each session so I don't run late. I arrive in the hall, knock on doors to remind everyone, and then participants sit/stand outside their doorway to do the exercises.

My facility is also lucky enough to have a rather large Multi-purpose Room that we normally use for Church services, music performances, etc. Since we're not allowing large groups to gather, nor outside performers/presenters in the facility, I can let small groups of tenants use the room for enjoying indoor/outdoor games like Cornhole/Bags, Bocce, Indoor Golf Putting, Ping-Pong, Bowling, etc. Even inexpensive children's activities like bubble-blowing, plastic beach balls, etc. work pretty well. Of course, everything must be sanitized and tenants must wash their hands, wear masks, stay at least 6 feet apart, etc., but at least it gets people moving.
Susan 8th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Thanks Mary for your input
I would think the instructor has to move up and down the hall so that everyone who wants to participate can see and hear her
Yes I agree it would be a challenge
Thanks again for your insight
Mary Davis 7th Apr 2020
With the hall way exercise the rooms would have to be relatively close together.

There is the component of the instructors voice carrying down the hall - Hearing

and residents who are down the hall aways - seeing the instructor would be a challenge.

Thanks for other ideas.

Haley 6th Apr 2020 Recreation Therapist And Writer
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