I have had the pleasure of working with several seniors. I consider people over 70 to be seniors, however, as I inch up in years myself, my definition of senior might be calibrated upward to 75!
First, I would like to say there is no physiological reason why anyone needs to become extremely weak as they age. Aging is not a disease. You get what you train for, so if you spend the majority of your time sitting in front of a TV or a computer, a restaurant chair or a car, your body will be just strong enough to do those things. If you walk, play golf, garden, play tennis, ski, swim or any other activity you can think of, your body will be strong enough to do those things. Yes, aging does involve slight losses of muscle strength, but not to the degree you think. Regularly, people over 80 run the New York City Marathon. I was a ski instructor for a season and most of my colleagues were retired men over 70 and they skied like the wind! Actually, that experience was an eye-opener for me. Aging does not mean you automatically become decrepit. You become decrepit when you no longer give your body physical stimulus. Physical stimulus is the signal for your body to keep rebuilding itself at its current state. Bed rest is an extreme example, but as little as 2 weeks of bed rest can result in losing 50% of muscle mass. I highly recommend using a pedometer. You can pick up an inexpensive one for under $5. It does not need any bells or whistles, just something that counts your steps. Aim for 10,000 steps a day. That should keep you living at home in good shape.
My advice to anyone who wants to live at home for as long as possible is to maintain robust leg strength. Here is a quick test to see if you have decent leg strength. Sit down in the chair you sit in to watch TV, now get up without using your arms to help. If you can do it, congratulations, you have reasonable leg strength. If you cannot get up without using your arms, you probably want to work on leg strength.
Here is an easy way to increase your strength – stand up and sit sown 5 times each day for a week. Use your arms if you need to. Next week, add two more stand ups, the following week add 3 more and on and on until you can stand up and sit down 20 times in a row. When you are sitting down, please do so slowly instead of plopping down, if you can. This might be a little technical, but all our strength gains come about when performing eccentric muscle contractions. To make a long story short, you get stronger by sitting down slowly than by standing up. In six weeks, you should have stronger legs. I also highly recommend walking for 30 minutes a day. If you cannot manage 30 minutes in one go, feet free to break that up into two 15 minute segments or even three 10 minute segments.
If you want do get stronger but you never remember to do your exercises of are afraid you are not doing them correctly, consider hiring a trainer to come to your home. I would suggest you go to a senior center and take some exercise classes, but what I see going on in senior exercise classes horrifies me. Sitting down to do exercises is a complete and utter waste of your time and energy unless you are confined to a wheelchair. No one is doing seniors a favor by having them do seated exercises, we all sit too much the way it is. Sitting is what gets our legs weak. If you ar afraid of falling down, hold on to the back of a chair to exercise, but please don’t do the exercises sitting down.