Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Pickleball for Senior Fitness at CCRCs

Two years ago a member of my CCRC fitness center came to me and asked if I had ever heard of pickleball. I told him I hadn’t, so he explained it to me. A month later a member of our sales and marketing team asked me the same thing; this made me do a little research of my own.

ThinkstockPhotos-471663643.jpgPickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and results in a senior-friendly game that addresses the many health concerns seniors are faced with every day, like poor balance and hand-eye coordination, depression, and the many symptoms usually associated with decreased cardiovascular fitness, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

Why the Game Is Great for Senior Fitness

We all know someone who is not quite steady on their feet; that person might even be you. Well, what if I told you pickleball could help with that? Pickleball has a unique set of rules, mostly regarding volleys (hitting the ball before it hits the ground), that favors people with less mobility and poor balance. The decreased amount of volleying combined with the slower-traveling whiffle ball is great for a beginner, and someone with poor balance who needs a little more time to recover after hitting the ball away.

The large whiffle ball is also easier to hit than a traditional tennis ball. Pickleball is played on a court that is 20 x 44 feet, so it is a lot smaller than a tennis court, which requires the player to cover less ground. When you combine less volleying, a slower ball, and a smaller court, you get a pretty free-flowing game with fewer interruptions, which means great exercise.

Who Plays Pickleball?

Pickleball is played by over 2.46 million people in all 50 states, so you don’t have to look far to find a league or people with experience playing. When I began my pickleball research, I found that a church less than 5 miles from my community had a league that played weekly. I also found that our local YMCA had a regular playing league, and both leagues encompassed people of all ages, fitness levels, and experiences.

All it took was one quick phone call and the church welcomed our seniors to their next session. The first night we took about eight residents who had shown interest. Not a single resident we took knew how to play before going, but after a short tutorial they were all on the court and loving it! The most amazing thing was seeing a resident with Parkinson’s disease get on the court and have no problem playing.

A Weapon Against Depression

If you are around seniors often, you have most likely seen firsthand that some battle with depression. About 6 million in the U.S. alone struggle with it every day. After seeing the smiles and hearing the laughs of residents and church members playing this game, it was a no-brainer for me to introduce it to our community, and we have gotten plenty of positive feedback. (See also: Tai Chi Helps Fight Depression in Seniors.)

Where to Learn More

If you are not convinced or you want more information, there are plenty of websites you can go to, such as these:

If you are looking for a place to try pickleball, I suggest checking with your local continuing care retirement community or community center, or contacting a tennis facility.

If you are a visual person and want to see pickleball in action, look at this video done by the Early Show.

Check out some of our best practices for wellness programming for residents, get creative to get them coming back for more!  

 

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Topics: CCRC continuing care retirement community balance senior fitness depression

The Power of Massage Therapy in Senior Wellness

senior_back_painI am a firm believer in massage therapy because a little over a year ago, I woke up in agonizing lower-back pain that did not allow me to move. My first thought was maybe I should go see a chiropractor. I had been to one before, but was not the biggest fan because they cracked my back and sent me on my way after charging $65. 

This time, I did my research and found a well-rounded practice that offered a full evaluation prior to the treatment to be sure they could help me and not further injure my back. Here, they first did a 30-minute session with a massage therapist, applied heat while rolling the back, and then I saw the chiropractor. In my situation, I needed the full run-through. Now that my injury is better, I can maintain the relief with strength exercises, stretching, and massage. 

So when I began working at a senior living community and found that the community had a regularly visiting massage therapist, I thought, “How very lucky we are to have a certified massage therapist!” She has her own room and setup that the resident can enjoy, or she can meet them at their apartment if that is more comfortable for them. I have found, though, that many CCRC residents do not take advantage of this resource just because they aren’t fully educated on the benefits.

How Often Should You Visit a Therapist?

Believe it or not, it can be to your greatest advantage to visit a massage therapist a two or three times a month. Often, it is thought that massage is a luxury visit to a spa once in a blue moon for some rest and relaxation. While it is great for that, massage is something that can be done in a less expensive setting and more often so that you can reap the benefits. 

What Is Massage?

What exactly is massage? Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing, and manipulating the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The combination of movements and sequence in which the therapist works is meant to alleviate pain, reduce the stress we carry in that area, and treat a wide variety of conditions. And the great thing? If it isn’t your cup of tea, you can just forget about it and try something else. 

Types of Massage

There are different variations of massage, depending on what the need is. Need relaxation? You’ll want a Swedish massage. Have a pain in the low back? You may need a deep-tissue or trigger-point massage. The great thing is, the massage therapist will know which is likely best for your situation. 

Benefits of Massage Therapy

While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

Here are some additional benefits of massage therapy.

Ask Your Doctor

One last thing, massage isn’t meant to replace regular care from your physician, and when a member complains of a pain that sounds most like a muscle or ligament pain, I suggest they ask their doctor whether seeing a massage therapist would be a good idea. 

When Massage Might Not Be a Good Idea

If one of these is something you suffer from, massage may not be right for you: 

  • Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
  • Burns, open or healing wounds
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Fractures
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Severe thrombocytopenia

Before I go, I want to encourage you to take a look at this alternative medicine and the role it can play in senior wellness. It has relatively low risk and can be very beneficial. Does your community offer this onsite? Would you like for them to? If you have a leisure services or wellness department, that might be the place to start. 

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC continuing care retirement community stress relief injury prevention massage

What Does Wellness Really Mean for Senior Living Communities?

Our use of the word “wellness” in senior living is confusing and potentially problematic for the consumer. When the possible definition by organization for “wellness” swings all the way from a few group fitness classes at one community to a full-blown medical clinic in another organization, it’s challenging to succinctly define what is being offered under the wellness banner. 

Nurse_doing_fitnessThinkstockPhotos-474647990Sometimes I visit a community and they have a wellness director who is an RN with primary responsibilities for running the community’s outpatient clinic and helping residents navigate their health care needs. In other cases, I interact with an individual at the community level whose title is wellness director, but whose primary roles are focused on running the fitness program. Those two individuals have two very different focus areas, diverse areas of expertise, and they offer two entirely different value propositions for prospective residents. And neither of them paints a full picture of what community wellness can be.

How you define your community in the area of wellness can be a point of distinction and a clear competitive edge for your business. But I wonder if that definition is best suited to be made at the community level or if there is a need, or even better a benefit, to defining it at an industry level. LeadingAge has initiated a “NameStorm” to find a new term for “continuing care retirement community” (CCRC). Is there a need for this kind of industry-wide focus on how we universally define wellness in senior living?

If we use the well-recognized dimensions of wellness (and I’ll go with the seven defined by the ICAA) as the means to define individual wellbeing, then the essential duties of the RN clinic director and the fitness program manager fold into various dimensions. But so do the essential duties of several other common jobs at a CCRC, including the activities director, the social worker, the dietician, the chaplain, etc. I could argue that each employee at the community has some portion of his essential duties impacting resident wellness.

I think, in a lot of cases, we get wellness all wrong. We want to box it into neat compartments, but it really spills out to all areas of the organization. Wellness is about building meaningful lifestyle opportunities for residents. It’s about honoring who they are as individuals and finding ways to help them tap into what motivates them, what provides them with purpose, and what keeps them engaged in life.

As I’ve started shifting my view on resident wellness in senior living to this broader perspective, I’ve started wondering whether resident wellbeing doesn’t need to sit a little higher in the organizational chart. Wellness isn’t just fitness and it’s not just activities. It doesn’t belong under either of those “departments.” It’s not limited to nutrition or spiritual designations, and it’s not focused on health care and clinical services.

Perhaps it’s the culture we’re trying to build.

But if that’s true, if wellness provides a cultural focus for our organizations, then each employee needs to have a stake in what it means to provide person-centered opportunities for well-being. And that message needs to come from the top. It can be supported by a well-developed employee wellness offering, as well (which is being discussed more and more in senior living). It can get folded into employee goals, job descriptions, and team meetings. And while one person should probably have ultimate responsibility for wellness in the community, it cannot operate in a silo apart from other elements that are unique to what your community offers. (This post talks more about how the various departments can collaborate better.)

How are you cultivating wellness beyond your fitness programming, your activities calendar, and your clinic?

Download our whitepaper on how you can create a culture of wellness in your senior living community.

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Topics: senior wellness CCRC continuing care retirement community