Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Senior Living: When You Exercise Your Hearing, You Exercise Your Brain

NIFS | Active Aging Hearing Loss

Neuroplasticity is the means by which the brain is constantly adapting and changing throughout your life. When it comes to hearing loss, your brain learns to adapt by allowing you to use other senses to make up for what you cannot hear.  However, when it comes to hearing, this rewiring can prove to be a bad thing because so much mental effort is diverted toward understanding speech.

But Jamie Desjardins, PhD, an assistant professor in the speech-language pathology program at The University of Texas at El Paso, showed that hearing aids improve brain function in people with hearing lossTo explore the effects of hearing loss on brain function further, Desjardins studied a group of individuals in their 50s and 60s with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss who had previously never used hearing aids. Study participants took cognitive tests to measure their working memory, selective attention, and processing speed abilities prior to and after using hearing aids. After two weeks of hearing aid use, tests revealed an increase in percent scores for recalling words in working memory and selective attention tests, and the processing speed at which participants selected the correct response was faster. By the end of the study, participants had exhibited a significant improvement in cognitive function.

This study reinforces the old adage, “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” and it’s particularly concerning because some people have hearing loss without ever realizing it.

You should see your doctor and ask to have your hearing checked if:

  • Phone conversations are challenging to hear.
  • You find it hard to track conversations when two or more people are conversing.
  • You find yourself asking others to repeat themselves often.
  • You notice television volume needs to be at a level that is too loud for others.
  • Background noise interferes with basic hearing.
  • Other people’s voices may seem muffled.
  • You have a hard time hearing women and children’s voices.

Most importantly remember this:

  • A hearing test is painless and takes less than an hour.
  • Untreated hearing loss increases your chances of falling.
  • Treating hearing loss with hearing aids is believed to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  • Untreated hearing loss is known to contribute to depression, social isolation, and cognitive decline.

It is so important not to chalk up hearing loss to a natural progression in the aging process. Consider this, having hearing aids and not using them is just like having sunglasses and not wearing them while squinting when the sun is shining. Both can adversely affect your personal well-being. Remember it’s not just about hearing loss, it is about exercising your brain and taking precautions for a healthy future.

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Topics: hearing loss of hearing hearing aid hearing loss and brain health

Easy postpartum exercises for getting back on the wagon after baby arrives

NIFS | Mom and baby exercisingThe baby has arrived! Congratulations! You just completed the toughest thing on the face of the Earth (at least in my opinion). You so graciously shared your body for up to 40 weeks and endured all the highs and lows that come with being pregnant. Now comes the not so fun part, trying to get that baby weight off. Unfortunately, I think in today’s society there is so much pressure on moms to get back to their “post baby body” as quickly as possible. This pressure can often cause unrealistic goal setting which leads to  frustration when you struggle to  get back to where you were before the baby arrived.

For me, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as a new mom has been taking my time to get back to where I was. I am currently six months post baby and have finally realized that my body (and lack of sleep!!) is going to be different than it was before. Listening to your body, learning patience and body acceptance is one of the best things you can do for yourself during this transition. Below I’ve listed several postpartum exercises that are great for easing back in to mild activity; they should help build the foundation for establishing a regular exercise program. Of course, always seek advice from your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Walking, walking, walking! I used to HATE walking for exercise. I would much rather run. I thought if I wasn’t sweating and breathing heavily, I wasn’t getting a good workout. WRONG. Walking is your best friend before, during and after pregnancy. Even if you can only walk for 10 minutes and at a slow pace, do it. This will help you become familiar with your body again. You can still reap the benefits of cardiovascular health through walking, with a decreased risk of injury or overtraining. This is also an activity that you can incorporate with your newest addition if you’d like – a good walking/jogging stroller is a great investment!

Pelvic Tilts. That baby of yours took up a lot of room in your abdominal cavity and so graciously stretched its limits, so this exercise is going to improve your abdominal strength and stamina. It may also help you improve posture which can be changed during and after pregnancy. Start by lying on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Flatten you lower back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and then begin tilting your pelvis up slightly. Exhale and repeat. Continue for 10-15 reps, several times a day.

Pelvic Bridges. There’s a good chance you learned about pelvic bridges while you were pregnant and I’m here to tell you to keep doing them! This exercise is a great way to strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, abdominals and glutes. It can also help stabilize your hips, which often become relaxed and soft to allow the baby to pass through during labor. Begin in the same starting posture for a pelvic tilt, resting your arms by your side, inhale and raise your pelvis off the floor while squeezing your buttocks. Exhale and lower your pelvis and lower back down to the floor. Start out with 6-10 repetitions holding them 5-10 seconds.

Remember, how the tortoise won the race? Slow and steady. That’s going to be your motto for the next few weeks (or months) as you maneuver your post pregnancy health and that’s okay. Your body created another human life and just for that you should be so proud of yourself! Sneak in whatever workout you can during this busy transition into motherhood. Stay positive and remember to love yourself and your new body. Congrats, mama!

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Topics: exercises workouts postpartum exercises fitness for new moms exercise after pregnancy

How one senior living community made major improvements in their fitness program

NIFS Fitness Center Management | DataIf you DIY the fitness program in your senior living community, you probably think your offerings are market-standard and don't need to be reconsidered. Even with strong staff running your fitness program, that in-house team has limits on what they can build for the community, and it's likely that you're missing out on opportunities for substantial improvement. The problem with those missed opportunities is that even with something as basic as exercise, it's tough to know what you don't know.

Here's one example of a client we're working with who already had in-house staff in place when we were brought on board to take over management of their fitness programming. In this case, the existing staff was well-credentialed and they were doing a good job of teaching group fitness classes and providing 1:1 exercise prescription and orientation-type services for the members. They were also running periodic programs and partnering across their communities with wellness initiatives. It was all good stuff, and yet, there was a lot of room for improvement. As part of the contract, we hired the existing staff and worked collaboratively to capitalize on what they were doing well, while also bringing in core services that provide tremendous value to program participants and the client. Here's a list of key data from our first full year at this community:
  • Annual fitness center visits increased 44% despite there being no change in total eligible residents during this time.
  • Appointment volume increased 68% which means that residents got a lot more high touch interaction with our fitness experts.
  • The average number of fitness center visits per day increased 43% and the number of residents who visited the fitness center at least once per month jumped 20%.
  • In a community where the group fitness program was already strong, we made a few tweaks and overall class participation increased 9%.

As I said, the staff leadership at this client location was strong before we came on board; they were doing a nice job tracking and using available data as well as providing good variety in programming. But, there are limits to what a small team can do in an environment like that without additional job-specific support. And that's the value of outsourcing your fitness center program to an organization that specializes in building and sustaining strong resident fitness programs. We were quickly able to help this team: 

  • Identify new ways to attract residents into appointments and structure documented follow-up practices to keep residents engaged in their exercise programs.
  • Adopt a program evaluation framework that allowed them to focus in on a few goals and truly evaluate what was/wasn't working in their community.
  • Provide comprehensive balance training/fall prevention programming with a depth that far exceed previous efforts, and served to draw in new participants to the fitness center and group fitness classes.

If you're ready to start moving your community fitness program to the next level, click below to download our eBook: How to Transform Your Fitness Center From Vacant to Vibrant.

Take your fitness center from vacant to vibrant > 

Topics: senior living fitness center fitness center for seniors outsourcing fitness managment resident fitness DIY staffing

The Balancing Act of Caregiving and Taking Care of Yourself

NIFS | Active Aging with familyIf you tend to be in a certain age category, you’ve most likely thought about caregiving for a loved one. Whether that be for your parents, siblings, children, other relatives or even friends, it can take on a life of its own. Caregiving is no easy task, so fully thinking through how this may play out in your life is a good idea (even if it is overwhelming). By planning ahead and being realistic about the situations in your life, you stand a better chance of decreasing the upfront stresses when you step into a caregiver role.

Better to have a plan and be prepared for it to go awry! You can expect to endure some stress along this journey, given the list of schedule changes, transportation challenges, medical decisions, housing choices and other decisions you will have to deal with. In the midst of providing care for a loved one, it’s really easy to lose sight of caring for yourself. But it’s another important element to include in your plan; if you don’t consider it, you may be surprised at the toll it can take on your own health.

Below are some ideas that may keep you on a healthy track so you can be your best when serving as a caregiver for the loved ones in your life.

Keep your own life a priority

Many caregivers get so consumed with all they need to do for those that they are supporting that they forget to keep their own life in order. There will be times when you’ll need to drop what you’re doing to be of assistance try not to make that a regular habit. Gauge the situation carefully and if it’s an emergency, the decision is clear. If it’s not, then you need to carefully decide if it needs your immediate attention. Can it wait? Is someone else medically able to offer assistance? Do they need this right NOW? Consider these questions before you put your life on the back burner every time something comes up. Do it in the beginning too so it doesn’t become a habit to take on these situations before taking care of yourself or putting your own life needs by the wayside.

Organize a schedule

If you’ve never been a caregiver, it’s going to take some practice building a sustainable routine. If you have kids, it may be similar to tracking the after school activities, birthday parties, and school events. Build your caregiving schedule into your week so there’s some consistency. This could include grocery store runs, pharmacy stops, meetings with advisors and just spending some quality time with your loved one. By building a consistent schedule, you’ll feel more organized and less likely to have this new set of responsibilities throw you off track.

Build boundaries

Boundaries will be important as well, not only with your loved ones but with yourself. Remember that you’ll need to continue doing the things that you love and enjoy; you are the only one who can take care of you. So, if you start to feel that caregiving is encroaching on your everyday enjoyment due to the demands, it may be time to create some boundaries. This may include limiting phone calls at certain times of the day, answering emails or texts when time allows, and not allowing disruptions to your everyday life when possible. Of course there will always be emergencies but don’t let every form of communication become one of them.

Incorporate lives

As a caregiving you’ll find that you may feel guilty due to the lack of time you can spend with your loved one as you try to juggle life. To prevent this, see if you can incorporate some activities with them and your normal schedule. This might include a walk with your loved one at the park on Sunday with the entire family. Pack a picnic and you have the opportunity to get some exercise for yourself, and to spend time with them and your own family. Seek outings that offer everyone some enjoyment.

Being a caregiver won’t be easy but you can build a routine that works for you and them with some careful thought. Start out on the right foot so you don’t build something that may fall apart or leave you feeling out of your element and exhausted. The goal is a win/win situation where everyone feels cared for, loved and fulfilled.

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Topics: senior living caregiving caregiver how to be a caregiver caregiving stress caring for loved ones

Active Aging and the Benefits of Learning New Skills

I recently held a Winter Olympic Senior Games event at Trillium Woods Senior Living Community in Minnesota. Over 65 residents ages 65 to 94 participated in a variety of events, such as chair volleyball, water volleyball, trivia, Wii skiing, shooting hockey pucks, competing at ping pong and billiards and building a snowman. One of my favorite parts about most of these events was that most of them didn’t require instruction or coaching from me in regards to proper techniques.

However, shooting a hockey puck was much different. Only a select few had ever picked up a hockey stick in their lifetime. Little did I know upon arranging the activities that I was setting myself up to teach seniors how to shoot a hockey puck into a net. (And not just a regular net, but  into a net with a goalie tarp attached for accuracy!)

NIFS | Active Aging Hockey

 The first practice was alarming, I think for both residents and myself.  I first explained and demonstrated the proper way to hold the stick, how to draw the puck back while always keeping the blade on the floor until the release, and following through to release the shot.  Easy for me, I have been doing it since age 4 and can do this better than anything. Many who chose to give this a shot were golfers, so it shouldn’t have surprised me when they picked up the stick. Their full swing included picking up the stick (holding at the top, not like I had demonstrated), winding up (taking the blade off the floor, not like I had demonstrated) and then failing with follow through to get the puck where they wanted it to go. They wondered why the puck responded the way it did and assumed that the way to fix their technique was simply by getting closer to the net.

So, with each resident I assisted getting them in proper position and instructed in detail each part of how to hold the stick, and how to draw the puck back and release the shot. Each resident was a little different, in how or what I had to explain. Believe it or not, while some needed more practice, everyone improved! Once they had the swing down, we moved on to teaching them how to lift the puck.  Slightly more difficult, however a select few were able to grasp this concept in the short four weeks we had to practice. 

Many would never think that at age 94 I am going to learn how to shoot a hockey puck, but that is what is so great about our brain and body. We can challenge ourselves in many ways allowing our brains to make new connections, and our bodies will adapt to different environments we place ourselves in. We are all able to learn a new skill, task, or sport at any age in life; much of your success is based on your mindset and effort given on a task. Take a look at this article on older adults and their ability to catch on and learn something new. Age is no excuse to remain complacent. What type new of activity, game, or task will you teach your residents? From my experience, I think both residents and instructors will enjoy the experience. Plus, these type of activities could improve your senior living fitness program! What new skill can you challenge your residents to learn?

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Healthy Living with Essential Oils

NIFS | Essential OilsEvery time I turn on the TV my eyes are flooded with commercials promoting new remedies for aches, pains, and disorders. They often include an overjoyed person dancing or baking a cake while a soothing voice reads off the endless side effects of the drug.  “Upset stomach, wild dreams, or nosebleeds may occur," says the soothing voice, “However, your affliction will be controlled for 12 hours.” Geesh! But we have a whole cabinet full of them- a pill for inflammation, a pill for blood sugar control, a pill for the nausea we get from taking the blood sugar pill and on and on. Thinking back to my grandmother’s house- she had many pills but she also had other mixtures, oils, and potions for curing ailments. Sometimes an onion in a sock, sometimes horseradish with olive oil… whatever discomfort you had- Grandma knew a cure!  Which old wives’ tale rang true for you?

I’m not suggesting that traditional medicine should be thrown out the window. But I do want to explore how to incorporate oils into daily routines for enhanced well-being. Essential oils have been around for hundreds of years with documented uses dating back to around 1500 BC. Essential oils are a concentrated liquid that contains a plant’s chemical properties. Each oil has a unique property and potential effect depending on the plant from which it’s derived.  They are extracted through steam distillation and cold pressing, making the extracts full of potent antioxidants.

Essential oils can be used topically. They can also be inhaled or ingested. When used topically be sure to dilute a few drops of the essential oil with a carrier oil. Carrier oils include grapeseed, olive, coconut, and jojoba oils. They act as a base oil and do not affect the effectiveness of the essential oil. They absorb easily into the body due to their tiny molecular structure. Oils can be applied behind the ear, on temples, soles of the feet, or directly to the area of concern.

The technique of inhaling the oils for relief is called Aromatherapy. Simply sniff the oil scent directly from the bottle (1 to 2 inhales is all you need), or a diffuser can also be used. Only consume essential oils which are labeled safe to do so. One drop of cinnamon oil is all you need to elevate that Saturday morning French toast recipe! Or, you can add a few drops to water or yogurt. Some oils can be dropped into a capsule to swallow.

Here are a few ailments and the essential oil that may help to eradicate common aches and pains. Please note the information in this blog is meant to serve as a guide. It is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Interactions between oils and other over the counter or prescription medication can occur; always consult your physician before altering your medication plan.

  1. Inflamed joints can be soothed with the help of the frankincense oil. In a hot bath it works to nourish the skin and stimulate the body’s immune function.
  2. Remember where you left your keys with the help of rosemary. One study from Northumbria University found that being in a rosemary scented room could improve memory by 15% in older people.
  3. Dealing with an itchy scalp and or acne is no fun. A few drops of tea tree oil works to clear it in a hurry. Add to your conditioner or mix with Aloe Vera gel and apply.
  4. Battling infections? Oregano and thyme oil have supreme antibacterial properties. If taken orally, ingest in smaller doses with food over 10-14 days.
  5. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, lavender oil may send you off to dreamland. Spray the oil around the room before bed, diffuse, or place a few drops in your body lotion and massage into your hands and feet.
  6. Support healthy joints and ease away pain with a blend of wintergreenpeppermint or black pepper oils. Dilute and massage it into the skin.
  7. Create an uplifting beverage to combat those gloomy days by combining ylang ylang (pronounced yah-lang yah-lang) and orange oil with water, honey and ice
  8. Tummy troubles? Give cool, bright peppermint oil a go. Add a few drops to herbal tea. Many brands may be ingestible but that’s not always the case, so read the labels carefully.

The effects of essential oils on the human body are still being researched. But the claims of those who use them are astounding. Call it an old wives’ tale or a miracle but some of these remedies may be worth a try if you’re open to alternative health methods.  

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Topics: healthy living alternative living home remedies essential oils natural living