Why do aging adults end up in assisted-living facilities? the answer is right there in the title: It comes down to not being able to get up off of the toilet. It may sound crass, but it’s a very real thing.
More broadly, the reason aging adults go to assisted-living facilities is loss of independence. As adults age, basic movement becomes much more difficult. People retire, they are less active, and they have fewer reasons to get up and out of the house. So they sit all day, and their muscles atrophy.
That’s why it’s so important need to stay active as we age. We need to find or stick to an exercise routine to preserve our independence for as long as possible—not just for our own sakes, but also so our children won’t have to take care of us (or pay someone else to).
The exercise needs of the aging population vary by degree, not kind. What is standing up from the toilet? – An air squat. What happens when someone falls and gets back up? – A burpee. How do groceries get unloaded from the car? – With a farmers carry.
Aging adult athletes may not be breaking gym records, but they can certainly perform modified versions of everything the rest of the class is doing—and a good coach will know how to guide them. Intensity is relative for every athlete in the gym, while range of motion and movement goals stay the same.
Strength training is also critical for aging adults because it helps prevent and reverse osteoporosis (brittle bones). Even minor slips and falls often result in broken bones in aging men and women with low bone density. Lifting heavy objects increases that bone density and reduces risk of injury.
Group fitness classes may or may not be appropriate for all aging adults. At CrossFit Orpington, we have several 50-plus-year-old athletes, and they do great in classes. Others choose to start with private sessions. The point is that they get or remain active.
We do not consider ourselves elite athletes. We are not going to win the CrossFit Games any time soon. I joke about it all the time, but that’s not why I work out. I work out every day so that I can stay out of a nursing home—and so I’ll never be trapped on the toilet.