Editor’s note: Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Caroline Szachnowski at [email protected].

Clarification: The second paragraph has been slightly revised to explain the relationship between OATS and Senior Planet.

It is no secret that exercise is essential for good physical and mental health. However, thankfully, older adults do not need to venture to the gym to get their blood pumping or get a boost of serotonin.

National nonprofit Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP created Senior Planet, a program which uses technology to change the way older adults age. Thomas Kamber, OATS founder and executive director, launched OATS with a group of volunteers in 2004 to help seniors use technology to live as fulfilling lives as possible in a digital world, as well as improve their social engagement, financial security, civic participation, health and creativity. Since then, the organization has made it possible for seniors of any background to work out, offering various programs and courses accessible from online or over the phone.

“Fitness really means different things to different people,” Kamber told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. “What’s really important is that organizations like OATS and Senior Planet make sure that we’re giving people a range of options so that they can pick and choose what is most relevant to them on a given day.”

To take advantage of these programs, all participants have to do is log in to the Senior Planet website and start. Senior Planet is meant to be a type of companion for people exercising at home, Kamber explained, and classes are all free and geared toward people 60 years and older.

Course options include yoga, tai chi, ballroom dancing and calisthenics. Seniors can also opt to buy a home treadmill or invest in Peloton.

“It’s a community that’s very age-positive,” Kamber said. “Exercise is presented in a way that feels really empowering for people who are older and because it’s on Zoom, you can see people who are similar to yourself.”

The benefits of exercise extend beyond the physical component, Kamber said.

“I think the psychological component of exercise is as important as the physical component for a lot of people,” Kamber said. “Many people are starting their mornings with meditation sessions. Sometimes later on in the day they may do a little bit of yoga. They may pop in for a dance class in the afternoon. The world is your oyster when it comes to accessing fitness programs from home.”

When it comes to mindfulness, virtual reality classes and meditation applications such as Insight Timer play a role as well, making meditation more fun and interactive, Kamber said. People are also able to customize their mindfulness experience in the apps. 

Kamber added that it is helpful for seniors to determine their workout goals, such as whether their workout focuses is on the physical or psychological benefits — or both. 

“I think it’s really important for people to think about the goals that they have,” Kamber said. “It’s kind of like going to your local diner and trying a bunch of different things on the menu until you figure out what you like.”