COLUMN: Excercise key to seniors’ quality of life

Columnist ML Burke says Delta should do more to help frail seniors get the exercise that they need.

In order for seniors to stay in their homes longer, we need to address four big health issues: social isolation, physical exercise, nutrition and access to information; or, put simply, getting out, moving those creaky bones, eating at least one good meal a day and finding resources. Isolation can lead to depression and possibly dementia. Lack of exercise can lead to falls and hospitalization. Not eating properly can lead to malnutrition.

Personally, I’m fine on three out of four, and a bit too good on the nutrition part, but I fail on moving these old bones. I sit too much in front of a computer and this is starting to take its toll. The brain may be holding up, but the body rebels.

A gentleman by the name of Greg Edwards wrote to me about “Winskill staff putting a kibosh on seniors’ exercise sessions.” He wrote letters to the municipality and the Delta Optimist, and sent copies to our politicians. He is upset that two out of three weekly Fit & Functional class sessions, which use chairs for frail individuals, were cancelled due to fluctuating attendance.

Edwards lamented the cancellations, saying it was “a class meant to serve the needs of our most frail who have a hard time standing, they can’t walk far, they suffer from poor balance, arthritis, osteoporosis.”

He’s right. These are the very folks we need to help to get out and to move. These sessions should not be based on attendance stats which can vary from one to 12 depending on weather, driving assistance and various ailments that might prevent someone from attending. If the instructor is only working with one individual on any day, that should be okay. There may be 12 next time. Edwards rightfully suggests that those transporting the senior could also be counted.

Our seniors’ centres fall under Delta Parks and Recreation, which does a pretty good job overall, at least for those who are relatively spry. There are six recreation centres in Delta, plus three seniors centres (counting Kin Village). The latter also serve hot lunches. A gap is occurring in the frail seniors programming. These residents need a reliable drop-in, chair-based, movement program which does not depend on numbers registered.

Delta might consider North Burnaby’s SAIL program (Seniors Active in Living). It offers advocacy, socializing, exercise and nutrition – for $2 or by donation. They have a coordinator co-sponsored by Burnaby and a private retirement centre.

Every week the members 55+ drop-in to hear a wellness speaker, participate in gentle chair exercises, maybe have a massage (shoulders, hands or feet) then convene for a reasonably priced hot lunch. Volunteers run the various massage and therapeutic touch stations. A nurse from Fraser Health does blood pressure checks and once-a-month a podiatrist runs a foot clinic for an extra fee. The centre staff also get to know the folks who may need more help.

The clientele are regulars and rely on this program to maintain their health, which results in them being able to stay longer in their homes. The SAIL program addresses all four concerns of advocacy, exercise, nutrition and social engagement. It’s a win-win for the senior and the system.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

North Delta Reporter

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