Exercise is important for people of all ages, but especially for those in their golden years. Sarcopenia - degenerative changes to bone and muscle due to agin - predisposes elderly persons to impaired mobility, the need to home services and/or hospitalization, and falls with subsequent injury related to said fall.
The changes in bone mass - especially in post-menopausal women - lead to osteoporosis. This puts one at risk of fractures - especially of the hip and wrists. Hip fractures are especially worrisome as it has been shown that up to 36% of elderly people suffering a hip fracture will die within a year.
Muscle mass decline begins early on in life (in the twenties in some people), but becomes more apparent after the age of 60, with an annual loss of 1-2%. This reduces strength, power, and functional ability. What does this mean? Well, for starters, everyday activities such as house cleaning become more difficult. Also, if one is to fall they are at increased risk of injury - but if by luck they do not injury themselves, the could potentially not have the capacity to get up off the floor. I've personal treatment elderly people who had fallen in their home and had no initial injury, however because tehy were not able to get themselves up off the floor they lay there for hours - one such patient being stuck on the floor for 12 hours. As a result, the patient developed a urinary tract infection because they were unable to get to the toilet and became incontinent of urine. They also began to develop sores.
The reasons mentioned above testify to the importance of exercise for elderly people. Exercise can take any form, but a mix of resistance type activities coupled with cardiovascular can yield great benefits. Resistance exercise not only stresses muscle and lead to adaptative changes in structure - resulting in increases in strength; they also stress bones linearly which helps improve bone density and combat osteoporosis.
A program design by Otago university in New Zealand has been developed and has been shown to reduced falls risks in elderly individuals. It combines balance and strength training, as well as a walking plan. for more details click here.
I'm not going to give example programs here. There are numerous resources available for those interested in teaching elderly exercise classes or in participating. Check your local gym, talk to your GP or physio, and be active. Of course, if you have any questions feel free to contact me. I'll happily answer your question or point you in the right direction. That's all for now.