Tina Wang is a longtime trainer with Senior Planet, specializing in health and wellness programming for older adults. In the op-ed below, Tina discusses her experience leading a recent fitness technology discussion group and Senior Planet’s recently released Fitness Wearables Whitepaper.
The pandemic has presented a devastating time for all Americans. One community whose struggles have been extensively reported on are older Americans. Stay-at-home orders have made it challenging to stay fit, prevent weight gain, keep a healthy mindset and seek social interactions that support more connected and joyful lives. Yet, I’ve seen firsthand older people’s resiliency, and it’s inspiring.
Can Technology help?
As a yoga instructor, I help people of all ages accomplish their health goals while maintaining a healthy personal lifestyle. Although I’m not an older American myself, I recently had the opportunity to lead a Senior Planet from AARP discussion group with many older Americans – hoping to empower them to incorporate technology, including fitness wearables, to track their fitness and maintain healthy habits in these trying times.
It’s been so inspirational to see individuals (many of them lifelong fitness buffs) learn how to use a FitBit or an Apple watch so they can continue to excel despite current challenges. They enjoy using these tools to keep a healthy mental state while gyms are closed, and while options for exercising outdoors can be limited.
It’s equally energizing to learn the improvements possible for people more recently hoping to improve their health in their later years. Tracking even a limited amount of physical activity, their sleep and their diet with an app like MyFitnessPal improved their lives.
“If you’re older, it’s never too late to get started.”
We all recognize how challenging it can be to get started on prioritizing your health. When bad habits become ingrained in our daily lifestyle, they can be hard to break. These bad habits aren’t just physical or diet related: it’s also problematic that so many people associate building a fitness routine and learning technology with youth. This kind of thinking can discourage older Americans from taking essential steps to enjoy and enhance their lives regardless of their age.
“My hope is for more older Americans to feel encouraged and empowered to utilize fitness technology to improve their lives.”
My hope is for more older Americans to feel encouraged and empowered to utilize fitness technology to improve their lives. As Americans, we’re facing a crisis of more and more people needing long-term care. Coming out of stay-at-home orders, it’s possible, if not likely, that we’ll see a surge in people hoping to lose weight. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 22, 48 or 74. Focusing on your health and fitness can lead to a much happier life, and utilizing fitness technology and leading a healthy lifestyle could also help mitigate the long-term care crisis.
“Steps” in the right direction
The organization I teach for, Senior Planet, works with older adults to improve their lives through technology by offering free classes on a wide range of technology topics. With a generous donation from CDW, my entire course could be dedicated to improving older adults’ fitness through technology, including fitness wearables. I used a holistic approach because everyone’s fitness needs are different. I listened to those who participated in my classes while also teaching them tips and tricks on using the technology available to them more effectively.
“Hansa, 66…increased her daily step count of 2,000 to 7,000 using a Fitbit…”
Take Hansa, 66, from Hayward, California. She increased her daily step count of 2,000 to 7,000 to 10,000 using a Fitbit. She’s just one of countless examples of Senior Planet class members learning – and using – technology and fitness wearables to track their progress, challenge themselves further, and start living a more healthy lifestyle.
If you have relatives or friends who are struggling with their health, or attempting to live a healthier lifestyle – spread the word about fitness wearables. Show them your FitBit or Apple Watch. Tell them about apps you like. There’s bound to be an app, a device or an online workout class that can help improve their lives. Pressed for time? Don’t worry, just let them know they’re always welcome in Senior Planet classes, and we’ll show them the ropes.
Time to get started
It’s never too late to get started. Before Sally, 78, from Denver, started taking the Senior Planet Morning Stretch class, she was sedentary, but now she takes the class Monday through Friday, and it gets her day off to a good start. If it’s the technology that keeps you skittish of pursuing a healthier lifestyle, join a Senior Planet class, and we’ll take care of any of that technological apprehension.
As stay-at-home orders gradually lift, I’ve seen first-hand how a simple integration of technology and fitness can help people come out of lockdowns stronger, healthier, and in a better state of mind. These tools can help extend lives, make people happier…and if we act now, mitigate the coming long-term care crisis.