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How Much Activity Can My Elderly Dad Really Handle?



"I wonder how much activity is good for my father. He’s 85 years young with no material health issues I know about. He only takes a few preventative-type pills that are just over the counter.

As he gets older, I wonder if we should include him in some of our more arduous activities, like walking 18 holes of golf, water skiing, wood splitting, or house painting. I don’t want to be responsible for something happening to him. My siblings might not forgive me if I overdo it with Dad.

So, I’m looking for a bit of advice on what’s okay for an 85-year-old man to do or not do. Is there a rule of thumb on this?"



There’s quite a bit of variation in ability among older adults based on how active they’ve been throughout their lives and what physical condition they’re in. Your father sounds like one of those who has lived well and has been quite healthy. He can likely do more than most. What a wonderful situation.

The reality is that despite all that, you’re still dealing with an 85-year-old body here. A body does age even if you take excellent care of it. It’s a certainty of life. Minus a disease state, most body organs do function at decreasing capacity over time. Therefore, I recommend that he have a regular check up each year with his primary care physician. He should ask about what level of activity is acceptable for him. It would be a good idea for him to list out the things he does and get his doctor’s opinion on each activity. Tell your father to be honest. Doctors are not mind readers, and a written list is easy to view. 

If your father’s doctor has no issue with his level of activity, then you shouldn’t either. Of course, Dad is at greater risk of a fractured hip, heart attack, stroke, or quite a few other medical incidents that could occur. But he also needs to live and enjoy his life. 

If your father has the stamina to walk 18 holes of golf, I say all the power to him. Water skiing is even more impressive, as I don’t see too many people his age doing it. I’d be careful with ladders as some very serious injuries occur with them, regardless of user age. If you can be present when Dad uses a ladder, that’s ideal.

You seem like a very thoughtful child with an active and engaged father. You two are in an excellent situation. Do take the time you have with your father to make wonderful memories doing some very fun activities.


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