No matter your age, doctors have always stressed the importance of staying both mentally and physically fit. As we age, they say it’s even more important because it allows you to be more independent for longer, and that’s why we are encouraged to get out there and exercise both our minds and bodies on a regular basis.
“One of the major problems as we all age is the fear of loss of independence and this can happen by losing physical mobility and freedom to make our own decisions in case we have dementia,” says Dr. Shravantika Reddy, who specializes in family and geriatric medicine with WellStar Medical Group in Marietta. “Therefore, it is important that we reduce these fears by helping ourselves be functionally independent for as long as we can by keeping physically and mentally active.”
To build physical well-being, Reddy recommends aerobic exercises, muscle strengthening, balance and gait training, in addition to maintaining healthy nutrition. In continued efforts to improve mental fitness, she advises seniors to remain socially active with friends and family and learn new activities and practice activities like crossword puzzles that stimulate the brain.
Lou Alice Coffin, an 84-year-old who lives at Presbyterian Village in Austell, agrees with Reddy. She walks daily, in addition to stretching and flexing, and participating in strength circuit exercising in her community. “Remaining active and healthy allows me to do all the things I want to do on a daily basis, and to enjoy life to the full,” Coffin says. Presbyterian Village offers a number of well-rounded programs for its residents so that they can help stimulate their minds, bodies and spirits.
Like Presbyterian Village, the wellness director at Sterling Estates in Marietta, Christine Walsh, says they offer a variety of daily aerobic classes like water therapy, stretching class and personal training, in addition to balance and fall prevention. She also enjoys games with the residents and they participate in music therapy.
“Staying healthy is not just done with exercise,” Walsh says. “You must incorporate every aspect of wellness into your routine. Whole-person wellness is our main goal here. We strive to encourage our residents to add improvement in every type of wellness.
Sterling Estates resident Bettie Ruth Cox Hudson agrees. The 77-year-old performs stretching exercises in her bed each morning before getting up and reminds herself to be active every day. “I take the Sittersize class four to five times a week, as well as the balance bar class and water aerobics to stop back pain, knee pain and shoulder pain,” she says. “I have never been so pampered in my entire life, ever, ever, ever.”
Aspen Village Senior Living, which serves seniors in west Cobb and surrounding counties, offers similar programs for its residents, especially to help stimulate the mind. The staff and management believes that those in the 55-plus community should engage in “meaningful” activities that they already enjoy to help promote cognitive health while they age.
“It might be chess or backgammon, crossword puzzles, Scrabble games with friends, reading, participating in a club, building models or any number of activities,” the Aspen Village staff says. “Keep in mind that the activities require active engagement, not passive engagement such as watching television.”
In 2017, the east Cobb community will see a new development in Isakson Living’s Continuing Care Retirement Community on Roswell Road. It too will cater to the well-being of the senior community.
“The proposed development helps to create a lifelong community that will afford east Cobb residents an opportunity to remain in the area as they grow older,” Kenn Isakson says. “The residential community will also be an attractive option for others who may relocate to be close to children and grandchildren in the area.” The community will offer independent homes with on-site amenities like dining, activities, entertainment, fitness and wellness, in addition to assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing.
On-site senior care isn’t the only way to help strengthen one’s mind, body and soul. Vince Clifford, who owns Serenity Adult Day Care Center in Powder Springs, welcomes seniors to their facility during the day so that they can participate in multiple activity programs, health monitoring and socializing with others.
“At Serenity, we are helping mentally and physically impaired adults by providing cost-effective care while supporting individual autonomy, allowing individuals to ‘age in place’ and enhancing the quality of life for both participants and family caregivers,” Clifford says. Guests at Serenity can enjoy snacks and meals, while also participating in light exercise programs and recreational activities such as BINGO, arts and crafts, sing-a-longs and day outings.
Aging gracefully isn’t just about exercise and mind games but also about what you eat. “The combination of unhealthy eating and physical inactivity is responsible for the second highest percentage of preventable deaths in the United States,” says Phil Graiser, who owns and operates Comforting Arms with his wife Julie. “Health related problems are exacerbated by poor nutrition and inactivity.”
At Comforting Arms, they work with seniors by going into their homes, rehab facilities or assisted living residence. Graiser says their licensed dietitian, Judy Whitehead, conducts nutritional assessments for each client and creates a meal plan to help maintain a proper nutritional balance that is necessary for seniors.
“Caloric intake and making proper choices of foods is critical to consuming the proper amount of calories recommended for those more than 50 years old who get less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day,” Graiser says. “Getting the right combination of carbohydrates, protein and fats is important. If someone refuses to eat certain foods that are necessary to maintain a good balance, replace that item with one of similar nutritional value.”