Scientists are constantly looking for ways to help enhance the lives of our nation’s elderly population. This is essential, as the number of seniors age 65 and older has reached more than 50 million as of 2016 and is on track to increase by as much as 30 million in the next three decades, according to seniorcare.com.
And one of the ways researchers are doing this is by developing a ground-breaking program that fosters physical and cognitive growth in older loved ones, while catering to the capabilities of the person as an individual.
UPV/EHU Ageing-On research group’s program focuses on balance, strength and stamina. In the study, 112 seniors from 10 different care homes were chosen. They were divided into two groups: a “control” group and an “experimental” group. The experimental group was assigned two 45 minute sessions of physical exercise each week, and were asked to walk gradually until each person was up to 20 minutes a day.
Freedom Home Care was surprised at the outcome of the study.
The initial results showed that over time, strength training can provide positive physical and mental health benefits for seniors. The group that engaged in routine exercise saw an increase in limb strength as well as an improvement in cognition. Even those participants who used walking devices like canes and crutches reported a boost in overall physical development.
There was a stark contrast between the experimental and control groups after a 90 day period. The experimental group showed a two-point increase in speed, walking, strength and balance, while the control group experienced a one-point decline in physical strength.
Researchers explained that a one-point difference meant a significant change in terms of scaling and a three-point difference meant a “clinically highly significant difference.” It was also reported that those seniors who had the greatest physical impairments improved the most.
The Ageing-On research group believes its program can be adopted by senior centers everywhere as long as the participants are physically and cognitively able.
While the goal is to enhance the quality of life of our elders in general, researchers say, even if a loved one is not receiving senior care in-home, there is a chance the program could also be beneficial to those who suffer from neurological problems or dementia.