As we get older it’s increasingly important to stay active. According to the World Health Organization physical activity can prevent the onset of impairments that lead to an increased risk for falls.
“Our balance classes are very well attended,” said Felicia Agyekum, United’s kinesiologist at Fish Creek. Together with Jenn Kitchen, United’s kinesiologist at Garrison Green, the two develop programs that interest residents to ensure participants remain strong. “The residents realize how important it is to maintain strength and balance to reduce the risk of falling. Falling is probably their number one concern, so we focus on exercises that improve everyday function. Movements we take for granted like walking, bending over or getting out of a chair can all be compromised if we don’t keep active. Our programs are designed by the kinesiologists and tailored to residents’ needs.”
While Felicia’s classes are usually held in groups, individualized exercise programs are developed for some residents, based on their specific needs. “Each resident is at a different fitness level, so it’s important to tailor programs for them so they remain interested and motivated. If exercise is too easy or too difficult, they might not be interested in continuing.”
Classes start with a warm-up and then incorporate strength training, endurance exercises and balance techniques for a full-body workout.
Classes cover all levels of interest. There’s an all-round exercise class, a standing class that uses exercise balls, resistance bands and hand weights, a sit-to-stand class, a balance class, yoga and a resident-led walking program. “This winter we introduced a fun program where we walked to Finland,” said Felicia. “Residents were given pedometers and kept track of their steps. They recorded almost 10 million steps!” Residents didn’t actually get to Finland, she laughs, but the goal brought into focus the importance of simple, everyday walking.
For the last two years, United has hosted the United Games, a fun take on the Olympics with a variety of games that engage residents at all levels of physical activity.
In October, residents participated in the annual Alzheimer Walk and Run.
“Residents will often tell me how much better they feel after exercising,” said Felicia. “Even during classes, they find that the exercises are getting easier for them.”
The classes follow the philosophy developed by Professor Debra Rose at Fullerton University in California. Her program focuses not only on strength and endurance but being aware that all of our senses play a huge role in balance. She has developed unique exercises that utilize all the senses. They 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.”
Felicia and Jenn have fun in their classes, and different equipment is used to keep things interesting.
Garrison Green has a close relationship with. Mount Royal University. Residents use the swimming pool and fitness facility, including the indoor walking track if they wish. Fish Creek takes residents swimming at the Canyon Meadows pool.
As well, United has also developed a relationship with the University of Calgary, which brings students in the kinesiology program into United’s communities for practical training with residents.
Motivation is a huge part of starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “We keep up on the latest research and always look for new programs and ways of exercising that residents will find interesting,” said Felicia. “It’s all about maintaining and improving quality of life.”
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To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.
Photos by United Active Living. Video by Sherana Productions.