Regardless of age or fitness level, exercise is proven to be beneficial for everyone. In honor of National Senior Health and Fitness Day, Cooper Wellness Strategies Programs Director Sheryl Brown shares her top five most valuable life lessons learned from working with seniors as a physical therapist.

A lifetime of wisdom
For the past 25 years, I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with thousands of seniors as a physical therapist. While I was the one educating and instructing patients on the benefits of exercise, proper technique and skilled progression, they in turn taught me more about life than I could ever imagine. The timeless lessons learned from their experience, wisdom and vantage point will be forever remembered. Learn how you can enhance your journey to overall health and well-being.

  1. Life is a gift
    Having gone through numerous positive and negative life experiences, our seniors cherish each day as a gift and have a broad perspective on life. If you slow down and take the time to listen, you’ll find most seniors desire to share their gift of life experiences and offer an abundance of wisdom.
  2. Small improvements lead to large milestones
    My senior patients were passionately dedicated to their exercise routines as they strived to play with their grand kids, continue their golf game or dance at family weddings. Skilled progression of exercise over time through small increases in range of motion, duration or strength yields significant functional gains. Session after session, week after week—it was an inspiration to see my patients achieve and exceed their goals with such motivation and persistence.
  3. A smile is medicine for the heart
    A smile communicates happiness, joy and acceptance marking a particular stage in life. Many times I felt I didn’t have the appropriate words to say to connect with someone’s pain, but I learned that offering a smile bridged the gap and touched their soul. Even during the pandemic when everyone’s smiles were covered by face masks, we’ve learned how to “smile with our eyes.” Make a conscious effort to smile and look into each person’s eyes because as William Shakespeare once wrote—the eyes are the window to the soul.
  4. Listen to learn
    Taking the time to truly listen empathetically and carefully to others, especially our seniors, increases our understanding of life and fosters deeper connections. It also helps build trust and confidence between you and the other person. Even more so, listening makes an individual feel what they have to say matters.
  5. Encouraging words are key
    Simple phrases like “good job,” “keep up the hard work” or “you inspire me” go a long way. Authentic encouragements not only mean a lot to our seniors but people of all ages. As you go about your day, think about what positive phrases or words you might use to encourage a senior or someone else in your life.

I am so grateful for many valuable life lessons and insight gained while working with seniors. This unique demographic not only inspired me in the way they strive toward better health and functionality, but in how they love life and the people around them. Take the time and make the space to learn from your elders. You might be surprised how much you gain from their wisdom and example.

To learn more about Cooper Wellness Strategies clients and services visit or call 972.560.3263.