Changing the Way We Age

Changing the Way We Age

Members of the ICAA Community describe highlights of their journeys to enhance wellness for older adults

Launched in conjunction with ICAA’s 15th anniversary in fall 2016, this column celebrates the ICAA Community’s efforts to change the way we age.

Through programming, environments, products and services, organizations that promote active aging make a difference in people’s lives every day. Efforts to support older-adult wellness respond to needs, inspire action and address dreams and expectations of multiple generations—one person at a time.

For its 15th anniversary celebrations in 2016, the International Council on Active Aging® invited the ICAA Community members, supporters and allies—to share memorable moments and achievements from their journeys of Changing the Way We Age®. Thanks to everyone who sent stories and photos.

The Journal on Active Aging® has spotlighted some of these submissions over the last few issues. Each issue features three stories. Watch for more to come in the final installment of this column in the July/August issue.

Meaning through music

Adapted from a submission by Penny Vittoria, Acacia Creek Retirement Community, Union City, California

Sharing music brings joy and purpose to the members of the Acacia Creek chorus, who held their first outreach concert in June 2016. The chorus, which calls itself the “AC Singers,” consists of 18–20 Acacia Creek residents. Recipients of their music were the residents of St. Christopher Convalescent Hospital, in Hayward, California.

Each week the AC Singers meet for an hour to practice with their resident accompanist. The group’s conductor, Joan Wade, says, “It’s meaningful to share the music we are learning and to have purpose to our practicing.” The group routinely performs at Acacia Creek and for skilled nursing residents at neighbour on-the-hill Masonic Homes. The singers were happy to have the opportunity to share their love of music with the greater community.

Music is an important part of life, health and overall well-being. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, music helps with memory by using association to remember special events, feelings or thoughts. It can also influence or become an outlet for emotions—soothing people’s agitation, brightening their mood or allowing them to grieve. It is also a tool for people to connect emotionally and communicate when words are not possible.

During their visit to St. Christopher, the AC Singers made an emotional connection with their audience, with residents singing along to the familiar tunes. The feeling in the room was an overall sense of happiness. Chorus members look forward to more performances where they can give back to the greater community.

Meeting new expectations

Adapted from a submission by Mary Jo Riley, Groton Senior Center, Groton, Connecticut

The Groton Senior Center has been a proponent of senior health and fitness for decades, expanding the facility in 2010 to include a fittness center, dance/ aerobics room, health clinic and more. In addition to expanding the venue and in answer to participant responses to a center focus group, we developed several programs to meet the new expectations of adults 55+. These include:

Outdoor Adventure Traveling Senior (OATS): Created to draw younger, more active older adults to center programs, OATS has succeeded in drawing seniors of all ages. During the past two years, the program has taken participants hiking on trails throughout New London County, sailing on a tall ship in Long Island Sound, cruising to see lighthouses on the Sound, and doing a ropes and zipline course through the trees. We have also enhanced the regular trips pro- gram with additional options for hikes and walks when traveling.

Seniors Speed Dating: We also looked at the social programs the center offered. Approached by the producers of Age of Love, we offered a viewing of this documentary lm about seniors dating and had the producer Skype with viewers about their reactions. We then held a speed dating event at a local venue for single older adults who were looking, as they stated, “for someone to go to dinner with or the movies.” Participants were able to contact their matches if they wanted to continue to meet. We wrapped up this social time with a semi- formal Senior Prom dinner dance. In the end, the “match making” event has resulted in two longer-term matches and a lot of publicity for the center.

Senior Learning Network: A program with educational, travel and technology components [provided through a non- profit organisation, the Senior Learning Network allows us to o er older adults virtual opportunities to experience new activities and places. Individuals have visited the basilica under construction in Barcelona, Spain; seen the volcano eruption in Hawaii; and participated in a live dive at the Channel Islands o the coast of California. Each session is interactive, narrated by a live host. Sessions are offered two to three times per month. We have found that individuals take these opportunities to see a place they would like to visit, like the basilica, and then plan a trip to go. For people who physically can’t participate, these sessions enable new experiences.

Emphasizing physical and cognitive health

Adapted from a submission by Bobby Moser, Covenant Village of Turlock, California

Here at Covenant Village of Turlock we have made it a priority to take action and do everything in our power to allow our residents to thrive. Our Covenant Retirement Community campus does not believe that aging means having to stop doing the things we love. Rather, we believe the later years of life can be golden and lled with exciting, fun, new experiences that build lasting memories and relationships.

A significant benefit of living a rewarding lifestyle in later life is being physically and cognitively well enough to do so safely. For our community to achieve this level of wellness, we placed a new emphasis on physical and cognitive health, in addition to adopting a fall prevention initiative.

An environment was created throughout our campus that promoted use of the fitness center as well as dissemination (through newsletters, guest speakers, posters and other media) of the benefits gained by becoming more physically active. We implemented biannual fitness testing and quarterly balance assessments conducted by Fitness and Physical Therapy staff . Residents who present declines in areas of balance, strength or flexibility can be referred to physical therapy or encouraged to participate in any of the instructor-led exercise classes held daily in the fitness center. These processes yielded a 20% improvement in biannual fitness testing scores, and nearly a 17% reduction in residential falls.

Although cognitive gains can be a benefit of increased exercise, we chose to battle Alzheimer’s disease and dementia head on by applying the SAIDO Learning program [a nonpharmacological approach developed in Japan and practiced in nursing centers there for more than 12 years]. SAIDO has been demonstrated to render more independence and improved social interactions among participants. Our campus is currently encouraging more staff to proceed through the training in hopes of expanding this program throughout the community.

These improvements in physical fitness and cognitive functioning are seen and felt all over our community, as more residents can participate in rewarding experiences and outings, whether with family and friends or on scheduled eld trips.

Covenant Village of Turlock has incorporated valuable resources focused on helping to maintain and improve residential health on multiple levels by promoting an active lifestyle. The outstanding results encourage us to stay proactive with future initiatives to promote health and happiness at all stages of life. The gains we’ve made are just the tip of the iceberg. Going forward, we will continue to strive to change the way we age.