There’s an app for that

There’s a growing number of online programs dedicated to seniors, their fitness and health. Here are some worth checking out


Winter and COVID-19 kept many of us — especially seniors — from getting active, but with the arrival of spring, Leigh Vanderloo says it’s time to get outside for fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. 

“Being inactive impacts so many other aspects of staying healthy,” says Vanderloo, an exercise scientist for ParticipACTION, which has been around for more than 50 years. “Physical activity reduces depression and helps with mental and cognitive issues. Sadly, the last couple of years have not been great for promoting physical activity.” She wants to see more multi-generational physical activity, and ParticipACTION has the solution.

The ParticipACTION app not only bridges the generation gap, but is a good way for older adults to learn some good activity habits — which can be as easy as counting how many steps you take in a day or getting out with the grandchildren to walk the dog — and become a little more tech savvy in the process, says Vanderloo. “Putting the app on your phone or having your children or grandchildren do it for you is a good way to establish that intergenerational relationship and appreciation for movement,” she says. Pointing out that more Canadian seniors want to age in place, she offers a carrot: staying fit helps with both physical and cognitive decline. “Make family time, active time,” says Vanderloo, “everyone will be healthier and happier for it.”  

The Ottawa Heart Institute has an abundance of information online dealing with exercise and physical activity, and its HeartWise exercise app is a simple way to get motivated and start an exercise program safely. “We’ve got easily accessible podcasts, webinars and our HeartWise app to help people get and stay healthy and active,” says Kerri-Anne Mullen, Ph.D., scientist and director, of the Prevention and Wellness Centre and Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre. “I know the Ottawa Heart Institute is well-known for treating and managing heart disease, but we’re also a main influencer in the prevention of heart disease. And that includes being physically active.” Over 80 percent of heart disease is preventable by treating and understanding risk factors and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “Yes, many of the topics we cover are geared to someone who has had a heart attack or living with a heart condition,” says Mullen, “but many of our podcasts focus on other lifestyle issues like sleep, good nutrition, cannabis use and of course, exercise.” Mullen says for anyone thinking about getting back into a regular exercise routine, the HeartWise app can not only track their progress but help them safely start that regime. “And don’t forget our virtual care program,” says Mullen. “It’s available online and can help you understand your current health status and provide strategies and motivation for how to manage any risk factors that might impact your health.”  

For Patricia Clark, national executive director of Active Aging Canada, active aging means aging well. “Staying active is the key to everything,” says Clark, “and we have tons of information, booklets, and online information for older adult Canadians. It’s all free to access on our website and we’ll even mail material to you in either English, French or another language of your choice.” The active living tips focuses on the benefits of activity; the organization’s 24-Hour Movement Guideline helps determine how much sleep you need and how much movement and screen time you need in a day to stay healthy; the Personal Passport contains information on healthy aging, resources and charts to track results; while Active Agers in Canada is a series of videos featuring older adults who talk about what’s keeping them active. “Being active is such a benefit for mental health too,” says Clark. “When you’re depressed, you probably don’t eat properly and you’re likely to be less active. And this pandemic has caused havoc for people not being active enough.”


Useful websites

The Council on Aging of Ottawa


Ottawa Public Health




Ottawa Heart Institute


Active Aging Canada


Other free apps