One Step at a Time: Fitness for Seniors w/Disabilities

Apr 01, 2011
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Throughout the week at my fitness facility and off site locations, I work with older adults who are recovering from cancer, strokes, spinal cord injuries, dementia and falls.  The first thing I notice and admire is their determination and resolve to work hard.

They have had to face some of life’s unfortunate challenges, but have persevered to take these challenges head on.  Whether it is a spouse or caretaker, everyone is supportive and is a part of the process to help this individual get better and regain control of their lives.

Even with this support though, I cannot help but notice their uneasiness and quiet concerns the first time we meet in private or group training sessions.  Don’t they know that all their paperwork is in order and that our goal as instructors is to provide a positive and gratifying experience?  All the medical reports have been reviewed and we do the best we can to help them regain confidence, dignity and achieve the most healthy lifestyle possible.  This is all very important, but the most key ingredient to their success is “the smile.”  Whether it is the “show your teeth,” “smile” or “laugh” exercise, every class begins and ends with a smile. Feeling better, then getting better, is about taking the time to personalize, care and make lasting impressions.  I leave my day behind and immediately create a positive, cheerful and comfortable fitness class.

One of our clients, Robert, has dementia.  His gait appears slower and more diagonally oriented so I take his hand and let him know how happy I am to see him today.  This immediately calms his worries and opens him up to the exercises I am about to show him.  A simple smile can completely change his attitude toward the class.

One thing I started that seems to keep clients motivated is the Wall of Fame.  Every time someone sets a new personal record they get to take a picture with me or one of my trainers.  This picture will get framed and put on my wall.  New records can include improved strength, walking speed or even more unassisted steps.  The results have been wonderful; everyone strives for “Picture Day.”  The smiles I see when we take these pictures are unforgettable.  This is one of the reasons it is so easy for me to come back to the next class and bring the energy and attention that the clients need.  Their smiles keep my day going well just as much as their own.

Author: suzanne