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Walking with Older Adults

I have a lovely client, 98 years young, who loves to do gentle exercises daily and go on short walks as often as the weather permits. Even during her senior years, until a few years ago, she enjoyed pool exercises to keep fit until it simply became too difficult to get to and from and in and out of the pool safely. Walking is one of the reasons she is in such good health at her age and maintains strength in her legs and her lungs - moving our bodies and the fresh air does us both a world of good! Having a walking companion makes it a much safer and more enjoyable experience for seniors, especially those living alone.

When I accompany my client on her walks, she wears weather appropriate clothing, hat, gloves, and walking shoes. She uses a four-wheel walker for stability that has a seat just in case she needs to pause to rest and sit (no need so far). Even though she prefers a brisk pace, we walk steadily and carefully on flat pavement facing the traffic. And our course, avoid slippery leaves, pot holes, puddles, debris, and such. I walk close by her side should she need my assistance. I also carry my cellphone in case there is an emergency.

Healthy Aging provides us with some tips on safely walking with older adults.

"Walking is the most popular form of exercise among older adults and it's a great choice. What can walking do for you?"

  • strengthen muscles

  • help prevent weight gain

  • lower risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis

  • improve balance

  • lower the likelihood of falling

If it’s been a long time since you exercised, you may want to start out slowly. You can start with just 5 minutes and build up to the recommended 30 minutes a day. Your goal should be to get up to taking 100 steps a minute. Remember, the most important thing is to just get started.

Take these steps to start walking:

Join a walking program or walk with a buddy Chances are you’ll stick with a walking program if you have someone to walk with. Some shopping malls or town parks may have these programs. The National Institute on Aging's Go4Life campaign has many resources for walking and other kinds of physical activity.

Wear the right shoes Comfortable sneakers work well for most people. If you have foot problems, you may want to look into orthopedic shoes or talk to your healthcare provider about how you can continue your walking program.

Don’t let a cane or walker stop you It’s OK to use your cane or walker if you already have one. These can improve your balance and help take the load off painful joints.

Aim for the right pace Try to walk as fast as you can, but still be able to chat with a friend while walking. Aim for working as hard as you do when you climb up the stairs. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any problems. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any pain or problems walking. Otherwise, don't let a health problem keep you from getting started. You may feel a little stiff and achy as you start walking, but many people feel better once they start moving!

3 Tips for Safe Walking

  1. Be Aware of your Surroundings Plan to walk during the daytime or in well-lit areas in the evenings. Keep an eye out for uneven surfaces, possible obstacles, and other tripping hazards.

  2. Keep Hydrated Bring a bottle of water (or other low-calorie liquid) with you and be sure to drink plenty of fluids if you sweat.

  3. Dress Properly for the Weather If walking outside, wear layers of clothing so that you can take off a layer if you're hot, or put one on if too cold.

As a family caregiver, if you find that you don't have enough time or don't live in close enough proximity to help your loved one get the exercise they need on a regular basis, please reach out to us. Our personal assistants can help! We offer a free consultation. We have a two-hour minimum. Serving Lane County, Oregon.

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