Joy Garrison, in red T-shirt, keeps participants in the Move and Groove class in constant motion to music at the Frank P. Phillips Y in downtown Columbus Wednesday morning. It's one of several options in the Golden Triangle for adults to help maintain, or regain, mobility, flexibility, balance and more. Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff
Peggy Cantelou spends time on the Quadriciser at The Arrington at Plantation Pointe in Columbus this past June. Director of Rehabilitation Will Davis, left, and physical therapy tech Keisha Hill look on. Plantation Pointe has three of the robotic rehabilitation therapy systems on its campus, for use by residents and others referred by physicians.
Photo by: Photo by Jennifer Mosbrucker
January 11, 2020 10:19:11 PM
Driving music could be heard long before this visitor opened a door near the gym at the downtown Columbus Y. Inside the room, volume intensified as a circle of more than 20 women surrounded the dynamo at its center. Participants danced and clapped, making the most of this regular Wednesday morning romp called Move and Groove.
"It's just a little party for 45 minutes," said Joy Garrison -- the dynamo -- later.
At the start of a new year, "get fit" resolutions abound. Nowhere does that goal resonate more than with the segment of population Garrison spends much of her time working with. Exactly who qualifies as a "senior" may be open to interpretation, but the fact is, as we navigate our 50s, 60s and 70s, our bodies change. Assets like range of motion, muscle strength, flexibility, balance and cognitive quickness tend to lessen. And the fact is, abilities lost at a later age are usually harder to reclaim if neglected for long.
According to an article by Dr. Howard LeWine at health.harvard.edu, the life span of an average child born in 1914 in the United States was about 55 years. Someone born today can expect to live closer to 80. LeWine poses: Will those "extra years" be active and independent? Or marred by frailty and dependency on others?
Staying on the move, or getting on the move, can benefit anyone, but especially seniors.
"As we age, we take smaller steps, our voice gets weaker, our reach gets smaller, our movements decrease," said Garrison. She's an International Sports and Science Association-certified personal trainer. The Y fitness instructor holds certifications in senior fitness, youth fitness, sports and conditioning, sports nutrition, fitness therapy and personal fitness training. Garrison is also a certified instructor of several programs including Silver Sneakers, Tai Chi for Health and PWR!Moves, a Parkinson's Wellness Recovery program, among others.
"With age, our muscles start to deteriorate," she continued. "As soon as someone starts to hurt, they want to back off from movement, but it sets them up for a lesser quality of life. You need to take charge: The only way to combat it is to start moving. You have to build your muscles up around your joints and bones and ligaments to protect them so you can keep moving."
Avoid that fall
One severe fall can alter life permanently. Y staff and professionals in the physical therapy field stress the role staying active can play in avoiding them. Striving to improve balance is key.
"As we age, we can have a tendency to fall," noted Cynthia Mutch of the YMCA. "If a person has been exercising, working on their balance, working on their flexibility, they're less likely to fall. And if they do fall, they may be more able to catch themselves before it's a bad fall."
Jacalyn DeSoto at Plantation Pointe Retirement Community in Columbus holds a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Fall prevention is one of her focuses in working with residents and others on an outpatient basis.
"Physical therapy has a huge potential helping people, especially seniors in fall prevention. In so many older adults, falls are a leading cause of hip fracture, and if they have hip fracture over the age of 65, they are at a chance of shortening their life span," she said.
Bone density is another factor, and moving -- even if it's simply walking, or even standing, rather than staying in a recliner -- can help boost bone health, DeSoto added.
"Staying active has a huge, huge role in reducing fall risk and really trying to extend life span," she said.
Jeanie Miller is a certified occupational therapy assistant at Trinity Retirement Community in Columbus. In a recently-introduced Living Lively class at Trinity independent living apartments, Miller and colleagues work on leg strength and balance, as well as reach, grip strength and other functions.
"I have gone to a course (that taught) that the main thing that keeps someone elderly out of the nursing home is leg strength; if they have leg strength, they usually don't fall. Or, if they fall, they usually recover quicker. ... I am trying to teach them how to prevent a fall, to keep them as strong in their legs as they can be."
In the case of a fall resulting in hip fracture, seniors with good musculature tend to bounce back quicker and start walking again sooner, she added.
The dawn of a new year means there is no better time to go after the benefits a more active lifestyle can bring. If just starting from home, Garrison suggested, "One of the best things you can do is to get up and out of your chair, several times a day. Just stand up and sit down, walk out to that mailbox and back. Try to find somebody you can go for a walk with."
Walking tops Miller's list of starting points.
"If you can, walk. And if you're at a point where you can't stand very long, march (in place) while sitting. Even toe taps are a start."
DeSoto stressed a reminder about hydration: "Drink water. As people get older, their sense of thirst gets inhibited. So many people get dehydrated; they become more dizzy, their blood pressure can drop, and that can lead to a lot (of problems)," she said. "That is one thing that's very simple to do. Even if it's small amounts of water throughout the day, it can really make a big difference."
As Wednesday's Move and Groove class came to an end, smiling participants reached for their water bottles and took a satisfied deep breath. Some had already been in Garrison's boxing class earlier that morning; some stayed for the next workout, pedaling. All seemed to feel a boost from the class they'd just finished.
"I've been doing this for three years, and I love it!" said participant Christine Chandler. She also takes water aerobics classes, PWR!Moves sessions and works out on the Y machines. "I want to be able to do things. I've got two grandsons who are active in sports, and Grandmother has to be there," she laughed. "I've gotta try to keep up with them."
Garrison summed it all up: "The old saying, 'If you don't use it, you're going to lose it,' is so true."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.