Seniors Can Remain Active and Engaged in WELLNESS AND HEALTH CARE DECISIONS

By: Kellie Houx
From: From Home in the Northland magazine, February/March 2012

While February is marked with thoughts of love and March is a time of spring and St. Patrick’s Day, seniors are likely to think about finding winter activities and looking toward spring. Seniors want to be engaged in life, be active in their community and aware of the world around them.

In 2001 gerontologist Gene Cohen studied the influence of the arts on older adults and found that when the adults engaged and learned something new, physical and emotional benefits followed. Cohen’s findings and subsequent research suggest that creative expression programs can reduce pain, the need for medication, falls, depression and loneliness—while increasing mobility, helping cognition and making participants feel valued.

Simply, senior living doesn’t mean giving up social and civic connections. At Benton House of Shoal Creek, scheduled to open this spring, a full‐time social director will plan engaging events and outings. At other Benton House properties, active seniors participate in wine and cheese socials, charity yard sales where proceeds have benefited the Alzheimer’s Association, food drives, mitten trees and lots of seminars on maintaining healthy hearts, feet and minds. Plus there are spiritual services offered as well as volunteer programs. Families are invited to monthly events too.

Mary Galvan, marketing director at Garden Valley Nursing & Rehab, says the activities department plans events for residents such as Wii bowling tournaments for residents. They also have TGIF events, trivia nights, coffees and birthday celebrations for residents. "We often have live entertainment," she says. “Volunteers come in and offer to keep residents busy. Many residents are still able to sew and knit so volunteers come in and offer time to work with them on quilting, crocheting, knitting and needlepoint. Veterans are often saluted here and those residents who can travel will go for lunch and shopping or head to one of the casinos. As our motto states, "Residents are Our Priority."

Galvan says there is a resident council that meets and department heads attend to listen to needs and concerns. Residents keep up with daily news and politics is big right now, she says. "They love bingo and we will bring back the Mardi Gras celebration. There are Catholic and non‐denominational services for spiritual needs every Sunday. Plus we also have pet visits."

At Northland Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Services, the staff can work with seniors to return them to an active lifestyle if a fall or a surgery takes them out of their normal routines. Owner Frank Ferrantelle says seniors are often prone to falls. Sometimes changing or deteriorating eyesight can be a cause in some falls. Other falls are caused by equilibrium changes and diminishing strength. "When we are younger, we are able to right ourselves when we stumble, but that changes as we age," Ferrantelle says. "These falls can lead to hip and shoulder fractures."

So some of the services can help diagnose balance disorders through technological testing. Then the staff assists in treatments for balance, he says. "There are exercises they can do at home too. We can also talk about increasing the home lighting and removing rugs that could be tripping hazards."

"Older folks come to us after they have total joint replacements. This can be hip, knee or rotator cuff. Arthritis can affect joints and cause problems that require these replacements. Sometimes, a person’s profession can lend to the need for replacements." Ferrantelle says Northland Physical Therapy offers aquatic therapy and those people going through rehab find this therapy less stressful after the replacement of hips, knees or shoulders. "You only have to look at the lifespan of people to see that folks are living well into their 80s and 90s. The are healthy. They have taken advantage of good nutrition, appropriate exercise and cut out smoking. We are responding as part of that positive lifestyle."