By Matthew Solomon
The holiday season means big meals, lots of treats, and a ton of time by the pool. However, as the holiday season speeds by us, many of us are now trying to kick ourselves into gear with New Year’s Resolutions, the most common being fitness. Florida’s senior population is no different, with fitness and wellness being a vital element for overall health both of body and mind. To learn more about how to pursue fitness and wellness at any age, we spoke with Timothy Dean, ACSM Trainer, and Wellness Coordinator at Aviva – A Campus for Senior Life.
Q: Timothy, as a fitness professional what are some challenges you find when working with seniors?
T: Working with seniors is an amazing opportunity for any professional. They’re a special population and I find myself constantly learning from their experience. However, they are also facing some real health concerns. As they deal with the fact that they cannot do the things they were once able to do, consistency becomes the biggest challenge. Working on a consistent fitness and wellness plan is difficult at any age but when faced with the idea that a person is “too old” or “too weak” to participate, it becomes the greatest challenge to overcome.
Q: With consistency being such an issue, how do you keep them motivated?
T: The largest motivator has always been the idea of meeting them halfway. When a resident moves to Aviva, we meet in their apartment for our Senior Fitness Assessment. During that time, I always tell them, your only responsibility is to get to the Fitness Center, if you can do that then you have already succeeded. That sense of positivity and pushing them to be positive is essential to their long-term success. Of course, like anyone, seniors love incentives attached to fitness, but that doesn’t produce the results we are looking for. I’ve found that by keeping a positive attitude, approaching each person as a unique individual, and by reinforcing fitness in everyday aspects of life, we can create motivation.
Q: When you meet with residents, what is their initial feeling towards fitness?
T: Most of our residents approach fitness the same way as everyone else. On one hand, they’re excited by the possibilities, you can see them imagining how it will feel to overcome their medical conditions.
That excitement is one of the best parts of my job, it allows me to provide a huge variety of classes and programs. Variety is one of the keys to any fitness program, it keeps things exciting and engaging. When they look at our fitness calendar and see it filled with unusual exercise classes mixed with their favorites you get a real sense of commitment from them.
On the other hand, residents are dealing with a sense of fear. Some of them have been active their entire lives and are nervous about having to change their activity to fit their physical changes. Others are afraid of putting themselves at risk by pursuing a fitness and wellness program. Am I going to be able to do this or what happens if I hurt myself doing this? Safety is our number one priority as fitness professionals, which means the best way to push past that fear, is to work with them to develop a highly personalized program based on their current activity level. Once we establish that baseline we can start trying new activities and adding to their program.
Q: Can you talk about what the goal setting process is like for seniors?
T: Keep your goals small and attainable. When I evaluate a resident, the idea is always to move slowly. Maybe at the beginning, they can only do 5 sets of an exercise, so our goal becomes 8 sets. Some days they come in feeling great and want to try 10 sets
but doing that may force them to miss our next class because they are too tired. The small steps can be frustrating or seem too slow, but the idea is to build a consistent rhythm. At the end of the day when you add up all the small steps over a six month period, you will be amazed at how much you have achieved!
Q: For the readers, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out on their own fitness journey?
T: There are so many great pieces of advice I could give, consistency is the ultimate key to success, don’t be afraid to fail, keep your program varied, etc. However, the best thing for everyone is to make sure you celebrate all of your successes, no matter how small they may seem. Just getting up and staying active is a major success. We all want to be proud of the work we put in so make time to celebrate how far you’ve come instead of just looking at how much further you have left to go.
Aviva – A Campus for Senior Life is more than just a community, it is a lifestyle. As Sarasota’s premier senior rental community we want to invite you to experience the possibilities! Visit avivaseniorlife.org or call 941-225-8369 to schedule a tour.
1951 N. Honore Ave. | Sarasota, FL 34235
941.225.8369 | AvivaSeniorLife.org