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    A senior’s guide to the perfect summer stroll

    At 78, Patricia has never walked more. What started years ago as an early-morning tradition with neighbours has evolved over time. She’s moved away from the old neighbourhood, to embrace condo living. But that hasn’t slowed down her walking routine.
    By Home Care Assistance - July 11, 2022

    Home Care Assistance Montreal is the only home care solution offering an innovative, science-based approach to aging. We elevate the standard of care for seniors everywhere. In “Care Diaries,” we feature heartfelt stories from Canadians telling their current life stories.


    “I walk every morning, as soon as I wake up,” says Patricia. “I have my usual route now, which I like. I get to see the same people going about their day, and I like to stop and chat along the way.”

    True, too, for Isabelle and Louis. After more than 60 years of marriage, they’ve just downsized into a bungalow that sits at the heart of a bucolic Quebec village. Within days of moving in, they’d already started to plot a new path around the block—one that includes a local stop for cappuccino. 

    “It’s nice to explore and to get that change of scenery,” Isabelle, 83, says. “We stopped about halfway through, and then we were ready to keep going back up to the house.”

    At the other end of the senior spectrum, their adult daughter, Nancy, is turning 63 years young this summer. But her daily treadmill habit still gets top billing in her agenda. “I could never give up my walks,” Nancy says. “It keeps my body going but it’s also where I do all my thinking, and sort out my thoughts for the day ahead.”

    While they’ve incorporated walking in different ways, benefits abound for each of these seniors. Walking—at any age—can strengthen muscles, keep weight steady and lower the risk of diseases that become increasingly common as we get older (think heart disease, stroke, colon cancer or diabetes). Walking is good for bone health, helps reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension, and bolsters joint flexibility. What’s more, a great walk can dial down anxiety and depression, while dialing up confidence, mood and sleep quality. 

    Even better news? It doesn’t take much for seniors to kick-start a walking routine and bring a little more movement to their day. Any senior hoping to tap into the upsides of a summer stroll should keep three key tips in mind, and then hit the road:

    1. Walk in ways that work for you. Even five to ten minutes of walking can benefit a senior’s health. In fact, starting out slow is better than launching into too long or difficult a walk. Seniors who want to get moving should always check with the family physician first. With his or her go ahead, take a gradual approach and adapt the duration and distance in keeping with personal abilities. An experienced walker like Patricia, who has been pounding the pavement for years, will naturally have more stamina than Isabelle, who is just getting started. That’s okay. Experts suggest seniors 65 and up should aim for about 150 minutes of movement or exercise a week. The caveat? It should always be customized to your own personal abilities. Get a sense of where you’re starting from, and enjoy the process.   
    2. Seek out even ground.Falls are a major risk for seniors, and a leading cause of serious injury. That means it’s doubly important to ensure the route you choose is suitable for a gentle jaunt. For someone like Isabelle, that might mean sticking to smoothly paved sidewalks. Twenty years her junior, Nancy might be better able to tackle a little off-roading via the local network of nature trails. Even a walk through the shopping centre—or around your own home—offers up benefits. Assess the path you’re about to take before you start, and stick to walks you can enjoy without taking on any additional risk of stumbling off track.
    3. Team up to top up—on benefits. Walking naturally supports mental wellness. But walking with a friend or caregiver can up the upsides. Research shows that support from friends actually helps our brains reframe problems in a new light. Regulating our emotions while talking things through with someone else encourages us to look on the bright side (which is why Isabelle is always happy to have Louis along for her walk). Seniors (typically disproportionately impacted by loneliness) who combine a walk with a good chat can drive a big boost to physical and mental wellness at the very same time. So go ahead, invite someone along. Or, ensure your caregiver bakes some walking into the daily routine. A little can go a very long way. 

    Closing thoughts

    Seniors who make the most of summer to walk when the sun is rising, setting or any time in between can do wonders for mind, body and soul. Set your own pace. Choose the right terrain. Bring a friend or caregiver into the mix. Prepare to feel good all summer long.

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