Chair Exercises for Seniors in the Retirement Home

I had never heard of chair exercises before I came to the retirement home. I was pretty skeptical – how can you possibly exercise sitting in a chair? I started attending right away and to my surprise I can feel the benefits. The people who attend are a mixture of the residents and are all shapes and sizes, ranging from extra-small to extra-large. The instructor is a woman of about 40 and she too sits in a chair and demonstrates and does every exercise with us. I am sure her challenge is to vary the types and sequence of the exercises in order to prevent sheer boredom from taking over. So she has come up with some creative ideas.

The first one is the “ball game”. Everyone gets a hand-size softish rubber ball and uses these in exercises to strengthen every muscle in the body. The ball is under your foot, between your knees, under your arm, behind your back and under your chin. The final exercise is squeezing the ball to strengthen your hand muscles and then squeezing the ball with the various fingers. Not a single muscle escapes!

This morning’s session was another “out-of-the-ordinary” one. Everyone got a strip of rubber about a meter long and quite wide. The exercises were simple: hold one end of the strip in each hand and stretch it wide apart in front of you, to the side of you, over your head, behind you back, and so on. It’s not easy. I could feel my muscles straining against the pull of the elastic. I looked around and saw that many of the women were not exercising, just sitting and watching. It was too strenuous.

In the corner Janie, who lives near us on the third floor and weighs about 40 kilos or 90 pounds and is at least 85 years old, had one corner of the rubber strip firmly under her foot on the floor and the other end in both hands. She was straining mightily upwards, her face red with exertion. I never actually saw what happened, but I heard a “crack” as the rubber came loose, followed by a yell and I, with the rest of the group, swung around. Janie was airborne.

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