How Do I Motivate My Elderly Parents To Become More Active?

It is not uncommon for seniors to become more and more ingrained in their past and current habits; especially as they get even older. After all, many of these routines and traditions they practice have shown the test of time and are certainly worth keeping around (at least in their opinion).

When it comes to embracing unfamiliar and sometimes inconvenient habits, like adding more exercise to their daily routine, it can be challenging. As the old saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”

I want to reassure you that although your loved ones may be older, you can still motivate them to adopt and even embrace new habits if done the right way. Based on my experience, here are three tips to help get you started:

Get To The Root Of The Issue:

There may be a deeper reason that is blocking your elderly parent(s) from starting this new endeavor. You need to get to the root of it before progress can be made.

Are they afraid they might hurt themselves? Do they think exercise is boring? Are they too tired? Do they believe that structured exercise is a waste of time? Maybe they are just sick and tired of feeling like they are being constantly micromanaged…

Regardless of what the issue is, finding realistic solutions to uncover and remove the obstacle(s) will set the stage for long term success.

Hammer Home The Benefits:

Perhaps you need to reconsider how you may be suggesting the idea of more exercise. No one likes to be told what to do all the time; especially by their kids (who they themselves used to tell what to do!).

If this is the case, try to come up with benefits that you know your parents would react favourably to. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Is there a trip that they are dying to take and their stamina and balance are not good enough right now?
  • Are they desperate to avoid moving into a crowded nursing home?
  • Do they feel overly dependent on others and want to take more control over their life?
  • Are they afraid of falling or hurting themselves and want to do anything they can to prevent this?

Regardless of how you present your case, remember to think in terms of your parents. Think of something that THEY want; not just what YOU want.

Start Slow, Establish Consistency & Be Patient:

I want you to picture your parents’ current habits as a well-worn walkway which is very easy and comfortable to navigate. A new habit to them resembles an overgrown trail full of branches and underbrush.

When embarking on a new endeavor, start with something easy and manageable that makes the overgrown trail look a little less intimidating. This might involve something as simple as adding a 2 minute walk around the house every day, or restrict sitting to time periods no longer than 1 hour at a time.

Once these adjustments start to gain traction, you can slowly start to build on that success in the form of increased walking time, or new exercises that your loved one can manage and enjoy.

It will take a lot of time and work to modify their existing habits. Remember that their brains are programmed to revert back to their old ways. Plan enough time and support to break in the new habit and be sure to choose activities that can be consistently completed; with, or without your help.

Work With A Pro:

Successful habits are formed when we define clear and specific goals, create and achievable plan, and implement accountability.  Do you have a clear and specific plan for your loved one? Do you need external support?

At Stephen Fitness & Rehabilitation, we offer personal training and physiotherapy services specifically designed for individuals looking for extra help motivating their loved ones to become more active.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one become stronger, more mobile and independent in the comfort of their own home!