Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Cathy Hampe

Recent Posts by Cathy Hampe:

Are You Talking Senior Wellness TO Residents, or WITH Them? (Part 2)

Now it is time to apply what you learned in Part 1. Let’s look back on some key points:

  • Only 12% of the U.S. population is health literate.
  • Health and safety information should be delivered on a fifth-grade level.
  • “Why” is a crucial question to ask and to answer in resident wellness.

Did you think about how you and your clients communicate and how instruction is delivered? Do you talk to your clients, or do your discuss with your clients? Let me ask you this: How often are you creative with your answers? How often do you use analogies that can be seen in the everyday world?

The Power of Analogies in Senior Fitness EducationThinkstockPhotos-529580019.jpg

I love using analogies. The body is an amazing machine, but also a mystery to many. I know we have all explained osteoarthritis many times over in our careers, but how well is the message getting through to the client? We can try to explain that the cartilage in the knee has slowly been worn down over time due to previous damages that may have occurred.

Now imagine that you have no idea what cartilage is, or can’t picture it. Would anything after that word mean anything to you? Probably not. So let’s put some visualization to this. Cartilage covers bones where they will meet with other bones and rub together. It is like a wet plastic sheet. Over time, damage happens because of impact from the many falls, running, and jumping that we have done. It also becomes more dry and brittle as we get older. Because of the damage and the dryness, the bones do not slide across each other smoothly anymore. The rough surfaces rubbing together will cause more damage, and the moist plastic lining is not there anymore to stop the bones from rubbing together. This explanation took a little longer, but I also know that the client now has a good picture in their mind of what is happening inside their knee.

Perspective and Visualization

One surprising statistic I learned while in my physics class in college is that if you hold a gallon of water straight out in front of you, your shoulder has about 100 pounds of pressure on it, even though a gallon of water is approximately 8 pounds. This is a statistic I am always passing on to my senior wellness clients. It can be very hard to understand why such a small weight is so difficult to lift, and maybe even painful. Some even feel embarrassed that they can’t lift a larger amount of weight. As soon as I tell them this, there is always a light bulb that goes off, along with surprise, of course. Again, the body is a machine. Machines follow the laws of physics, but how many of us can explain physics well enough for a fifth-grader to understand? Visualization is key.

Working with Plain Language: A Training Manual, written by William H. DuBay, has a great deal of information on the background of plain language, why it is necessary, and how to apply it in all manners.

One of our greatest joys as health, wellness, and fitness specialists is seeing the people we work with succeed. So let’s find that common ground where we are not just talking to our clients, but discussing with our clients about their health, wellness, and happiness.

Interested in how you can do wellness better for your residents?  Grab our quick read below to see how you can better evaluate your wellness offerings in your senior living community.

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Topics: senior wellness senior fitness resident wellness programs education communication

Are You Talking Senior Wellness TO Residents, or WITH Them? (Part 1)

4399_KF_3334-1.jpgIn the fitness and health field, we are asked for advice continually. It is our job to build fitness routines that are safe, comfortable, and something our clients will actually build into an overall resident wellness lifestyle. The difficult part always seems to be creating a program that they like that also fits around all contraindications of diseases and ailments, and having them not give up after a week.

The Importance of Communication in Senior Fitness Education

After observing many fitness professionals with their clients and many years in practice myself, I noticed that one of the greatest obstacles is neither of those two problems, but our ability to communicate with the client and find that connection for them. I’m not talking about the connection of personalities and ability to get along, but that connection where the client understands your thought process and why you are putting them through the “torture.” Education is the key to our success with the clients, and it is how that education is delivered that matters most.

So stop and think about how you deliver your educational pieces. Most likely you lay out your fitness plan. Then you demonstrate the plan. Then at the end of the talk you ask if they have any questions. Of course they reply “no” or “when do we get started?” They have not asked the one most important question that we learn to ask when we are two, but become afraid to ask as we get older: “WHY?”

  • “Why are we doing this exercise?”
  • “How does it help?”
  • “You mentioned the muscles that we will be working—what do they do?”

Anticipating and Answering Residents’ Senior Wellness Questions

We as practitioners already know why we are doing this, so we forget to pass that knowledge on. We move on to demonstrating the exercises and correcting their movements and posture as they do the exercise, until they look like a pro to anyone coming in, but they still are not quite sure why they are doing that exact movement.

I may be one of the biggest “older” kids out there, but I still love the question “Why?” I truly feel that if we understand why we are doing what we are doing, we will stick to it better. Also, if we understand a subject it is more interesting to us. If it is more interesting, we tend to want to try to learn more and become proficient. The trick becomes how to properly educate and make a lifelong plan with our clients rather than just doing it to our clients. We have to know that those why and how questions are running through their heads and take the initiative to help them answer the questions they don’t even know to ask or how to form.

Making Wellness Communications Easy to Understand

The next challenge is the client understanding what you are saying. The Quick Guide to Healthy Literacy, a fact sheet produced by the United States Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, states that “only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy.” Impact Information Plain Language Services’ newsletter reports that all health and safety information should be delivered at a fifth-grade comprehension level.

Health information is difficult for most people to understand. There is no difference in the world of wellness. We are asking our clients to trust what we are saying and what we are telling them to do, but many do not understand why they are doing the exercise we are teaching or how those exercises will help make them feel better, possibly decrease potential for chronic diseases, and even lessen the severity of other chronic diseases.

Think about this information and think about what you do. Do you work with your clients, or do you talk to them? You will probably find there is a little of each happening. Watch for part 2 to learn some tips on how to work with your clients and help them enjoy the wellness they are working with you to achieve. 

Senior living communities commonly miss out on the opportunity to have a qualified person on staff to help guide residents in the fitness center.  

Click below to check out our quick read, The Impact of Staff on Senior Fitness.

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC fitness center senior fitness education communication

Active Aging: “We All Need to Be Needed”,Emotional Wellness and Dementia

When creating senior wellness programs, we often focus on the physical realm of wellness. I would like to take some time to talk about emotional wellness. In particular, I want to get into the emotional wellness of our residents with various forms of dementia. 

All too often when someone begins to feel the effects of some form of cognitive loss, they begin to pull away. At first it is out of embarrassment over not being able to recall a friend’s name immediately or the name of a common object, or the frustration as they lose the concept of time and place. 

senior_careTaking Care of Someone with Cognitive Loss

Imagine if you had the knowledge that you were no longer able to follow a conversation with a group of people and be able to equally contribute to that conversation. Wouldn’t that lead you to draw away from your friends and family to save yourself from such an embarrassment? All our youthful years we identify ourselves by what we do or what we know. I’m an athlete, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, and so on and so on. Wouldn’t this also lead you to be depressed if you could no longer identify yourself? 

What if we as the caregivers could do more than take care of someone with dementia? Do more than shower and dress and prop them up somewhere. Those of us in wellness tend not to be the ones to deal with the hygiene portion of an individual’s care, so how can we contribute to their daily lives? The easiest and best way is time and attention. Depending on the stage of disease, there are many things that we can do to let our residents know they are still loved. 

It is easy to say, “Yeah, but I don’t have time. I teach classes and run programs and work with people individually and there is just not enough time in a day.” There is good news. It does not take a lot of time. Programs can be created to include spouses, friends and family members, or volunteers to help share the responsibility of time. These programs can be built to be held in short increments of time. The most important thing with any of these programs is to just remember to be with your residents. Not shuffle them from place to place or activity to activity. Take the time to truly be with them. Let them tell you a story; ask questions about their interests. Don’t try to control the conversation. Let it go wherever it may, just as you do when catching up with a good friend. 

Ideas for Emotional Wellness Programs

Here are a few ideas to include in a dementia program:

Music time: Sing-alongs, classical music, or music of their time. Music is the universal language understood all over the world and is the best trick up our sleeve.Story time: This is not time to read a story to your residents. This is time to listen to your residents’ stories. Pay no mind if that story switches tracks; just be there to listen to that story and contribute to a conversation that may come out of it. 

Current events breaks: Try to focus on some happy current events. 

The most important thing to remember is to live in the moment, because that is all someone with dementia has: a series of moments. I encourage anyone who potentially will be spending time with someone with dementia to either read the book or see the movie Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It is a profound story that will open your world to an amazingly deep understanding of an individual’s perspective of the need to be needed.

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Topics: senior wellness programs brain health dementia memory care mental health emotional wellness

Is Your Senior Fitness Program Challenging Enough?

At this point most retirement communities have recognized that senior fitness programs are as important as having a great social program or food and beverage program. The impact these programs have on marketing is tremendous, and so it is no wonder that everyone is looking to have the most popular programs with the newest class titles. Now that exercise is a key focal point and the residents are in the community, take a look at your programs and see if they are doing the residents justice. 

senior_womenDoes Your Program Help Residents Reach Their Full Potential?

In the most recent ICAA Research Review, there is an article shining light on sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle strength and mass due mainly to age. Simply put, as we get older we naturally become weaker. While reading this article I began to question how many programs in retirement communities truly push their residents to accomplish their full potential. 

Does your program challenge your residents to get down on the floor and back up again a few times during a class? No? Why not? Many of my residents are insulted when others expect that they can no longer get on the floor. I also have many who say they cannot get on the floor because then they won’t be able to get up. Over time our community’s fitness instructors and I have been able to prove to the residents that they can still get up from down on the floor and that it does get easier with practice. More importantly, being able to get up off the floor is vital to practice. 

According to the CDC, one out of three seniors will fall, and less than half of them will go to the doctor in regard to their falls. Now stop and think about all of those people that can’t get on the floor because they “won’t be able to get back up.” Statistics show there is a very high likelihood that they will land on the ground, and that is a terrible time to learn they truly can’t get up. 

Don’t Get Complacent

We, as individuals, have always had someone to help guide us, challenge us, and push us to achieve more, work harder, and be true to ourselves. When do we decide we no longer push someone? At what age do we decide that an individual should turn on the cruise control and just be? As a person of wellness, I don’t believe there is ever a time to show someone it is okay to become complacent. These individuals need to see that they are still capable of doing a great deal more. We need to be willing to work with our seniors both in classes and individually to help safely get them stronger—or at least maintain the strength they have—in order to help them not only live a longer life, but live a longer and more independent life. 

How do you challenge your senior living residents? When is the last time you asked them if they were being challenged enough? I bet you would be surprised at how many are asking for something a little more. I know I was. 

For more on why fitness is so important for seniors, see this post.

Get our Slideshare: Improve Resident Engagment

Topics: senior wellness programs CCRC fitness center senior living fitness center senior group fitness classes

Active Aging: Why should I consume probiotics?

senior eating yogurt resized 600We see probiotics all over the nutritional world now. So many foods, especially yogurts, are offering probiotics and making sure they are on the front label. But you may be wondering what these probiotics are and why they are so important.

We're glad you asked!  Here are 3 of the best explanations as to how they help and why we should consider taking them.

  1. Replace what we kill – We hear about bacteria in the body and automatically think that it is all bad, but we rely on an average of 500 different species in our intestines to digest our foods and process our nutrients. There is so much in our food today that helps kill these bacteria. It has been shown too that even one round of antibiotics can drastically decrease the amount of good bacteria in our body. The top four bacteria to look for are: Lactobacillus bulgaricus,  Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacteria.
  2. Digestive Health – So now we know we need to replace the bacteria that we kill and we know where it lives.  It’s time to see just what they do for us. These bacteria help break down and work through all the foods that we eat. This helps our body to use less energy while breaking down the foods and increases the absorption rate of all the nutrients that we eat. Both the Vitamin B’s and Vitamin K are processing are greatly increased by these bacteria. And don’t forget these are two vitamins that are responsible for giving us energy. When you think about it these bacteria are great energy boosters for us! We use less energy processing food and gain more energy from our foods. Finally all this bacterial helps regulate our digestive system. It is amazing the effect these tiny things have on our bowels. Once everything is in balance there is no more constipation or diarrhea or the bouncing back and forth between the two.
  3. Infection Prevention – Wait doesn’t bacteria cause infections? The answer is yes and no and to be even more confusing some of the good bacteria start with the name of bad bacteria as well. At first look what came to mind when you read Streptococcus thermophilus? Probably strep throat right? Well believe it or not this is a good bacteria and it does not cause strep throat. It actually helps with lactose intolerance and other irritations of the digestive track. Yeast infections are caused by the lack of good bacteria in our bodies. The yeast grows rapidly in warm moist areas and the bacteria are there to consume it. Lack of these bacteria has also been linked to urinary tract infections, bladder infections and kidney infection.

As you can see these little bugs are very important to our ability to digest, receive energy and stay overall healthy. These bacteria are found in many of the yogurts such as Activia®, Oikos® and Kefir. If you are lactose intolerant don’t worry there are soy and coconut based yogurts and drinks for you too. 

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Topics: nutrition active aging health and wellness