Balance and Strength – Two Keys to Successful Aging
Most of us take walking and getting out of a chair for granted, but as we get older such basic movements can get more difficult, especially if we don’t exercise to keep muscles strong. Falling is of particular concern for older adults. At United Active Living, classes are held several times a day to encourage residents to maintain their strength, balance and general mobility.
“What I find particularly interesting is how residents are very motivated to get up early and come to our classes,” said Jenn Kitchen, United’s Kinesiologist. “Our programs are designed for the residents and tailored to their specific interests.”
Jenn graduated from the University of British Columbia, worked in long-term care in Vancouver and in a physiotherapy clinic in Calgary before coming to United.
“I love working with the older adults. Each day brings a new experience. It’s very rewarding.”
United holds three to four exercise classes three times each week at its Garrison Green community, and one to two a day at Fish Creek. As well, contractors are hired to provide yoga and Tai Chi classes. Balance classes that are specifically designed to reduce falls are held three times each month and Jenn has introduced circuit training to improve overall strength.
The exercise classes follow the philosophy developed by Professor Debra Rose at Fullerton University in California. The program focuses not only on strength and endurance but being aware that all of our senses play a huge role in balance, and providing unique exercises that utilize all of our senses. The exercises are designed to challenge and manipulate a participant’s environment to progressively challenge their capabilities.
“Maintaining balance and mobility is essential to aging successfully,” said Dr. Rose, in her book Fallproof. “In addition to making it possible to perform basic activities of daily living, such as rising from a chair or climbing a flight of stairs, good balance forms the foundation on which a healthy, active lifestyle is built.”
This summer Jenn is going to introduce a program called Vestibular Ocular Therapy. People with vestibular disorders often experience problems with vertigo, dizziness, visual disturbance, and/or imbalance, which can cause a person to fall.
Our residents exercise using outlets that don’t seem like exercising – swimming, yoga and walking clubs are all ways they stay active and healthy.
The exercise classes are always fun and exciting and different equipment is used each class to keep things interesting.
“Fall prevention is always an underlying goal in all of our programs,” said Jenn. “Falling is not a normal part of aging and can be prevented with proper exercise, education and awareness. Providing education and fall prevention strategies decreases the fear of falling and gives residents the confidence and resources they need.”
United has a close relationship with the nearby Mount Royal University. Residents use the swimming pool and fitness facility, including the indoor walking track.
“Each resident is different and I tailor each class to work with residents who are at different stages of fitness. For me, it’s important that the atmosphere be positive, friendly and respectful. We’re all aiming for the same goal. To improve our overall fitness.”
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