RELATED: HEALTHY UPCOMING SENIOR EVENTS
By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Age is nothing but a number when it comes to fitness and health. There are plenty of ways for people to stay active as they get older.
This month is Older Americans Month and May 25 is National Senior Health & Fitness Day. It’s estimated that about 100,000 older adults will participate in fitness activities throughout the country as part of the national celebration. Next week, local YMCAs in the area will have free community events for people ages 55 and older. The events include fitness classes, demonstrations and health fairs.
Exercise is a healthy activity for people of all ages. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; there are several benefits to staying active as you get older. Physical activity can improve strength and balance, reduce symptoms of depression and improve the ability to think and learn. The department recommends that every week older adults get 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity, two days of strengthening activities and at least three days of balance activities.
Penn State Extension educators informed seniors about Strong Women classes during an healthy expo at the Montgomery County Community College campus in Whitpain on May 13. Mandel Smith, Penn State Extension nutrition educator, said the program has several sites across the state.
Smith said the class helps older adults build muscle to replace fat since people lose muscle mass as they get older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); it’s important to protect the bones, joints and muscles as you age with physical activity.
“Hip fracture is a serious health condition that can have life-changing negative effects, especially if you’re an older adult. But research shows that people who do 120 to 300 minutes of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week have a lower risk of hip fracture,” stated the CDC website.
Exercise and a nutritious diet will also help to reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Debra Griffe of Penn State Extension said there’s a connection between Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
“A lot of the folks that have Type 2 diabetes also have high blood pressure. It really raises their risk of heart disease,” she said.
Griffe is the program coordinator for the statewide Dining with Diabetes program which helps people manage the disease through exercise and nutrition education. She said there are three main things people can do to lower their risk for certain chronic diseases. People should increase their physical activity, eat a healthy diet by making half the plate vegetables and maintain a healthy weight.
A representative of Main Line Health was also at the senior expo in Whitpain to discuss how to eat smart for a healthy heart.
“Age is one of the risk factors and it’s one of the risk factors that we can’t control,” said Gretchen Skwer, dietitian at Bryn Mawr Hospital. “There’re a lot of factors that go into heart health that we can’t control but we can control what we eat. It definitely has a direct correlation onto a healthy heart.”
Skwer said part of maintaining a healthy diet includes choosing healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados and salmon. She recommended limiting saturated fats which are found in animal products. Skwer also said it’s important to limit sodium intake to no more than 2,3000 milligrams a day. She said it’s very important to be conscious of the sodium in foods especially when eating out. Skwer had a quiz where she asked people to guess how much salt was in a food item.
“There’s a picture of hot and sour soup and that has 6,000 milligrams of sodium so that’s three times the recommended allowance,” she said.
The healthy senior expo at MCCC in Whitpain was part of the 2016 Montgomery County Senior Games. The annual event motivates active adults to do sports and recreational activities through friendly competition. There were many physical activities offered as part of the games including swimming, pickleball, croquet, badminton, basketball and more. Winners of the games go on to compete at the state and possible national level.
Montgomery County Senior Games Chairperson Phil Brady said more than 500 people participated in the games for its 31st year. Brady said the games were created when a state representative had a vision to get seniors together for a week with “camaraderie, socialization, sportsmanship, fitness and health.”
“A lot of the folks will train all year for the games which gives them a chance to get together and compete,” he said.
This was the first year Christine Clements, 60, of Eagleville participated in the games. Clements got second place in the horseshoes competition and a gold in the billiards activity. She also participated in the softball and football throw, archery, and walking activity.
Clements mother participated in the senior games before she passed away in 2008. Clements said on the day she passed, her family found a filled-in registration form for the games on her side table. She and her siblings decided to create a scholarship for local seniors that advanced to the state games to help pay expenses. Now Clements has decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and play in the games as well.
“I just decided that I would do it and I’ve been getting a lot of comments from Facebook that my mother would be proud of me,” she said.
Clements said she didn’t do any specific training to prepare for the games but exercises at the fitness center about three days a week. She is also on a billiards teams and plays volleyball regularly to stay active.
“It’s really important to stay active because it keeps your energy level up,” said Clements who is a retired physical education teacher.