An often heard phrase about exercise and aging is “use it or lose it.” Meadowood Director of Health & Fitness Becky Anhorn agrees with the importance of movement, and she takes it one step further -making it fun and making it personal. Wellness requires a well-rounded approach, and one size does not ﬁt all! Read on to see what Becky recommends when it comes to meaningful exercise for older adults and how she and her team bring ﬁtness to life at Meadowood!
Finding wellness in the everyday
While Meadowood offers a robust workout class schedule for both residents and employees, wellness is about much more than taking classes.
Whenever a new resident comes to Meadowood, a member of the health and ﬁtness team meets with them for a wellness assessment, senior ﬁt test, and a discussion about their medical history, hobbies and activities, and what wellness means to them.
“Nine out of ten residents will be an active member of Meadowell,” says Becky. “With a focus on the six dimensions of wellness -physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, vocational and social -Meadowell provides so many opportunities for residents to take care of themselves.”
Wellness can be meditation or a morning prayer walk. It can be bird watching, gardening, and functional ﬁtness efforts like taking the stairs once a day or strength exercises for back and arms to make grocery shopping easier. Whatever it is, older adults can ﬁnd ways to incorporate wellness into everyday activities they love, meaning they are way more likely to stay engaged and stay healthy.
When asked how much 65+ adults should exercise, Becky agrees with the 30 minutes each day, but “we work with doctors and medical providers to customize plans for Meadowood residents,” she says. “It’s important that we meet residents where they’re at and make exercise for older adults work for them.”
Trends in exercise for older adults
When it comes to exercise trends, Becky and her team are always following them! In fact, they publish workout calendars for six weeks, not six months, to ensure they’re keeping things fresh for residents.
What’s trending at Meadowood?
“I think one of our surprisingly popular programs is boot camp at The Grove,” says Becky. “What started over COVID has stuck around due to high interest. Residents are using weighted ropes, doing carries, and more they never thought they could do. It’s inspiring to hear how proud people are doing something they didn’t think they were capable of.”
Another COVID-era trend has been virtual ﬁtness classes live-streamed on Meadowood’s in-house tv channel, as well as on-demand classes -from tai chi to meditation -posted to the community intranet.
“These are especially helpful for couples with one spouse who may be homebound or recovering from surgery or illness,” says Becky. “It makes wellness more accessible. We don’t see this trend going away.”
Becky is also proud of Meadowood’s wiﬄeball program, a big hit this spring and summer baseball season. Residents really enjoy the social aspect of the game as well as the physical activity and nostalgia from childhood.
A balanced approach to exercise
Falls are the leading cause of death from injury for older adults. So it should come as no surprise that Meadowood’s award-winning wellness program includes a nationally certiﬁed balance and mobility program to help prevent elderly falls.
Since 2015, the FallProofTM Program at Meadowood has graduated 106 residents from 16 classes. On average, participants have demonstrated improvements in leg strength, the ability to use vision more effectively, and the use of the somatosensory system for balance, as well as the ability to use the vestibular system to control balance. Mobility has increased in program graduates, along with the skills needed to recover from an unexpected loss of balance.
“Graduating from the FallProof class is a big deal at Meadowood,” raves Becky. “We celebrate our residents’ commitment to the program with a cap-and-gown style event. It’s truly something to be proud of when someone decides they want to invest in their future and live life to the fullest.”
Additionally, of the 45 weekly classes Meadowood offers, approximately ﬁve are focused on balance, giving residents ample opportunity to learn more and take action on this important health topic.
Memorable exercise for older adults
Since joining Meadowood in 2019, Becky has brought several new programs and initiatives to the community, being especially innovative amidst the pandemic. When asked about a program she feels made a big difference, she knew right away -no horsin’ around!
Collaborating with Eileen Joseph, Meadowood’s Certiﬁed Dementia Professional, Becky and her health & ﬁtness team launched an equine therapy program. Working with a small subset of residents, primarily memory care patients, and their families, the six-week program took place at a local farm. Participants had the opportunity to pet, groom, and feed the horses, as well as clean their stalls. Education was a key component of the program as well, learning the history of each horse with which they interacted.
According to an Ohio State study, elderly adults with dementia utilizing equine therapy were more engaged and less stressed, and improved their abilities to do physical activity. Most importantly for this audience, memory care participants in test programs were able to better recall the activities of days spent at horse farms.
“We got really great feedback from the family members who joined their elderly parents at the farm,” says Becky. “They really enjoyed the gift of having quality time with their parents, something often lost when they reach a certain stage of dementia. I personally had an interaction with a memory care resident the day after we went to the farm, seeing her in the dining hall. As we passed each other, our eyes locked and she said ‘I know you, you’re from the horse farm.’ This was heartwarming and truly gratifying, knowing this program was making a difference in her quality of life.”
Meaningful exercise for older adults
Working at a diverse community like Meadowood, with residents of widely varied physical abilities and interests, Becky relishes the opportunities to serve on several committees to truly get to know the residents she serves.
“Staying open-minded is so important,” she says. “I’m grateful for Meadowood’s investment in the wellness programs. I have the resources and team I need to continue exploring new ideas and bringing them to life in a way that sets this community apart and is meaningful to our residents.”
As Meadowood continues to welcome new residents, years pass, and times change, Becky is committed to innovation and ensuring the wellness program offers something for everyone who lives in this community. Her engagement in the professional ﬁtness community and today’s trends will help ensure that exercise for older adults at Meadowood is never an exercise in futility.