Making wellness a part of successful aging

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This is the second article in our three-part series on Wellness in Senior Communities by Kelly Stranburg, VP of Member Services at Senior Living Communities. Please look in next month’s Splash for the final article. Visit www.cwpvconnections.com to view the prior article. If you have any questions, contact Rick Rickets at 425-356-9600 or Sue Schwartz at 480-529-8088.

Q: Why aren’t people more active as they age?

First and foremost, we are fighting the stereotypes of aging. While there are definite changes that come with age, thinking about numbers more as arbitrarily defining categories rather than what people are still capable of doing despite the passing of time has been a prevailing and limiting attitude for far too long. It used to be that individuals 65+ years of age were expected to “slow down” in retirement and ease into their “Golden Years.” The current generation of seniors didn’t grow up with mainstream fitness as the norm and many ask, “If I’ve never done it before, why should I start now?”

Organized classes (i.e., “strength training”) can be intimidating to those with no previous involvement in fitness programs or if they are embarrassed about their skill level. And, of course, if a person experiences illness or a range of ongoing health issues and life adjustments, it can be more difficult to engage them in physical activities and social situations.

Q: So, how do you get seniors moving?

At Senior Living Communities, we have had positive results focusing less on physical activities as being about fitness, and more in presenting exercise and stimulating intellectual activities as a way for individuals to retain independence or to address the effects of specific illnesses and injuries. Something as basic as changing or broadening the names of classes to bring together a common population or those with similar challenges, such as our C.L.I.M.B. classes (Confidence, Longevity, Independence, Mobility, Balance), and make it easier for people to see themselves there, is a start.

Additionally, we note that when people see first-hand for themselves the positive results in others, they are more susceptible to peer encouragement to their join friends for a class or new activity. Making classes and activities fun – even fostering some friendly competition and rewards programs – helps too. Along with traditional offerings like chair exercise, yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates, we also feature innovative programs, such as our award-winning Waves water aerobics, Aqua Twinges and Hinges general water-based fitness, and the dynamic Senior Circuit.

Another approach we have taken is to identify specific, purpose-driven personal goals for our residents and then help individuals meet whatever outcome is unique to them. We start small – maybe with something as basic as getting out of a chair more easily. Once that milestone is accomplished, they often set other and more aggressive goals for themselves.