8/31/2021 | By Terri L. Jones

The sport of parkour has become popular among many daredevil athletes and adventurers; but many are surprised to discover that parkour for seniors is starting to make waves as well!

Remember that scene in your favorite action movie when the hero, trying to escape the bad guy, pauses on the ledge of that skyscraper and then makes a death-defying, heart-stopping leap to the next building? That jump is quintessential parkour, a sport that’s become very popular these days among athletic and daredevilish young folks. On the internet, you’ll find these pseudo-stunt people performing leaps, backflips off walls and other alarmingly audacious moves, using the natural and urban environment as their only equipment.

But traceurs, which is what these athletes are called, say parkour isn’t just about those daring jumps; it’s as much about how to land those jumps safely. And that’s exactly why the sport, in a modified form, of course, is finding a new audience with seniors.

Navigating their environment and preventing falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in four adults aged 65 and older falls every year, representing the majority of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older Americans. These falls have been attributed primarily to the fact that our strength, balance, and flexibility diminishes with age. But it’s a vicious cycle.

“Many older adults who have experienced a fall, or know someone who has, develop this fear of falling, which can restrict their activity,” said Kathy Cameron, director of the Falls Prevention Resource Center at the National Council on Aging, in a 2018 article in Bloomberg. “And the less active they are, the more their balance and muscle strength will decline, which puts them at greater risk of [falling again] and of social isolation and depression.”

With that in mind, organizations across the country, like Parkour Generations in Boston and PK Move in Northern Virginia, are designing programs to teach seniors how to use body movements to more safely overcome obstacles that they encounter all around them. In parkour programs for seniors, you might see older people passing an object through their legs while in a wide-legged squat, sitting on a chair and swinging their legs over a wall, or crawling up a big, foam ramp using their hands and feet. But if the traceurs feel like they’re going to fall during these exercises, they’re also given instruction on how to take tumble with less consequence.

Higher compliance than other exercise programs.

Not only does parkour for seniors teach participants how to navigate their environment more confidently, but according to a small study conducted in 2018 by Dr. Alexei Wong, an assistant professor in health and human performance at Marymount University in Arlington Virginia, but it can also improve their cardiovascular health, strength, and flexibility. And because parkour is fun, seniors tend to stick with the program longer than traditional exercise regimens.

“Modified parkour might help keep them motivated because it’s something different,” said Wong in a 2021 U.S. News & World Report article. “They play games, set up obstacle courses, move backwards. It’s a combination of skills, not just one thing.”

Real-life benefits of parkour for seniors

One 77-year-old admits that the fun aspect is what attracted her to the sport three years ago and has kept her attending virtual parkour classes throughout the pandemic. But this amusing activity may have also saved the septuagenarian from injuring herself recently when she slipped and fell in the grocery store. A little embarrassed, the septuagenarian simply bounced back up without being hurt at all.

While it may not be impossible to keep aging adults from falling altogether, parkour for seniors can certainly mitigate the risk associated with falls when they do.

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones