As a professional in the health care field, you know that physical inactivity is a nationwide problem. The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health tells us that 60 percent of the population doesn’t exercise on a regular basis, and 25 percent doesn’t exercise at all. That means only 15 percent of the population exercises regularly. Changing the attitude of Americans about exercise poses a challenge to us all, especially for older adults.
With the graying of the population, many more people will be in their 90s, 2000s and over the next few decades. Americans are living longer. Although many individuals will reach old age maintaining a relatively high functional capacity, many others will have to live with physical and functional restrictions. Inactivity leads to a growing decline in the efficiency of muscles. Older adults who are sedentary become unable to perform the activities of daily living. Therefore, the dramatic need to include exercise as a part of daily living for the elderly emerges.
The Abigail approach
Nestled in Hartford, Conn., on 43 acres of land, is Abigail Retirement Community. Abigail is a total life care facility that includes independent living, assisted living, adult day care, a nursing home and a wellness center.
Physical fitness and the push toward better health through exercise is what the wellness center represents. A grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, awarded in December of 1993, as well as gifts from private donors, were used to help create the center and purchase exercise equipment. Along with regular exercise programs, medical research studies pertaining to strength training, balance and walking difficulties (involving the University of Connecticut in conjunction with the Travelers Center on Aging) are conducted on site. From early morning to early afternoon the wellness center is buzzing with activity. Music tunes from the big band era can be heard upon entering the center, providing residents motivation while allowing them to reminisce about their younger days.
Two years ago, Abigail developed a supervised exercise program for older adults called “Reaching New Heights.” The program incorporates gradual strength building with cardiovascular and stretching exercises, and emphasizes the major muscle groups of the body — particularly the legs, which are important in everyday functional activities such as getting in and out of a car, bathing, stair climbing, walking and maintaining balance. Programs are supervised by an exercise physiologist and exercise prescriptions are based on current scientific research and evaluation. Continue reading “Exercising and Aging” »