When was the last time you signed up for a group activity or outing - maybe a line dancing class or the nearest mall walking club? If you answered yes to the question, give yourself a nice pat on the back! I recently started going to a Saturday morning exercise class with my sister and we both love it! Not only are we reaping the benefits of physical activity, we are also spending some quality time together catching up after class.
Staying active, both physically and mentally, is important for people of all ages and abilities. More specifically, social participation has proven to be a key predictor of overall health and well-being for older adults. A report prepared by the University of Manitoba’s Centre on Aging, defined social participation broadly as a, “person’s involvement in activities that provide interaction with others.” Some of the notable benefits of daily social participation outlined in the report included a decreased risk of developing dementia, depression, and/ or a disability, along with enhanced quality of life, improved memory function, and even a better night’s sleep!
Furthermore, studies have shown that social participation can even help you live longer. This is especially true for women. In a landmark 12-year study cited in the Centre on Aging report, researchers found that, “older women who participated in organizational activities had half the likelihood of dying within a 12-year period compared to those who did not participate in these social activities.”
So, now that we understand why staying active is important, let’s explore the how! Here are seven great ways for older adults to stay active and socially connected.
- Take a drive (or the bus or a leisurely walk) to your local senior centre or check out their programming online. Senior Centres provide the perfect place to meet likeminded people and engage in meaningful, fun activities. And older adults agree! The Centre on Aging Report found that, “80 percent or more felt that the activities (at the centre) increased their knowledge, helped them gain self-confidence, and provided an opportunity to try new things.” To find a centre near you, please visit the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres.
- Sign up for a dance class! Many senior centres offer dance classes as part of their regular programming or you can look for a beginner class at a local dance studio. Dancing is a great total body workout that can help keep your muscles and your heart strong. Dancing can also improve your balance and coordination, not to mention all the fun you’ll have working on your two-step!
- Sign up for a walking tour of the city. No matter what your interests are – historical architecture, beautiful churches or even haunted buildings, there’s a walking tour for you in Winnipeg! Visit the Tourism Winnipeg site for information on the different tours our great city has to offer. If you’re looking for a free, self-guided tour, there’s an App you can download to your smart phone called GPSmyCity – Lose Yourself Without Getting Lost. According to their website, “Each walk comes with a detailed walking tour map as well as the photos and background information for the included attractions. The app's navigation guides you from one attraction to the next.” If you’re so inclined, gather some friends and get to know your city!
- Create a cultural experience – what better way to stay socially engaged then a trip to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Dalnavert museum or the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden (just to name a few) with some friends and/or family. Better yet, why not purchase an inexpensive pedometer and you can keep track of the number of steps you take while you enjoy the experience.
- Join a garden club or community garden group and share your passion for gardening while making our city a beautiful place to live! To find out more, visit the City of Winnipeg's Community Gardens webpage.
- Plan a swim day at your local pool or join an Aquafitness class. Swimming is a great way to stay active, even for people with limited mobility or joint problems. The City of Winnipeg even offers specialty Aquafitness classes for people living with arthritis and/or fibromyalgia. To find out more, check out the Leisure Guide programming for older adults.
- Look for a volunteer role that is a perfect fit for you! Volunteering is one of the best ways to stay active and connected to your community. A great place to start is the Volunteer Manitoba website.
Krystal Stokes is the communications and public relations Manager at Victoria Lifeline, a community service of the Vic Foundation.