Residents think, move and improve
Use it or lose it. This adage is very true. As we age, it is critical we continue to use our bodies, maintaining strength and endurance to keep moving. Illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease add additional challenges.
To help individuals living with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders optimize function and maintain or restore independence, Ecumenical Retirement Community Fitness Director, Renee Harlow, worked with fitness team members from sister company, Country Meadows Retirement Communities, to create a custom exercise class—Think, Move and Improve.
“We see the need for wellness programs targeting Parkinson’s disease every day among our residents,” says Kim Eichinger-executive director of Dynamic Living. “Ecumenical and Country Meadows invest in our teams, and our Fitness co-workers have earned professional certifications in targeted exercise programs including those for Parkinson’s disease.”
Research in the area of Parkinson’s disease indicates that exercise is key to improve self-confidence and independence, decrease the risk of falls, minimize fatigue, reduce rigidity and improve mobility. Based on this criteria, the organizations’ Fitness team members gathered to pool their knowledge and experience to develop goals and exercises for the new program.
Think, Move and Improve works big muscle groups as well as helps participants work on fine motor skills. The class offers exercises focused on:
- Large movements and increasing size of movements
- Voice projection
- Facial expression
- Fine motor skills
- Dual tasking-combining cognitive challenges with physical tasks.
While Think, Move and Improve is targeted to persons with Parkinson’s, the program offers benefits for everyone. Modifications are offered for all ability levels so everyone can participate, and Fitness staff members incorporate several of the exercises into everyday fitness classes as they provide benefits for all participants.
Eichinger says the first step in Think, Move and Improve class is cardio to elevate heart rate. “We lead exercises to get circulation and blood flow to the brain and while that brain is ready to learn new patterns and habits, we introduce things like larger movements, bigger steps, posture, balance and rhythmic movements.”
She continues. “We then move into dual tasking activities. Challenging someone to do a cognitive activity simultaneous with a physical task helps the brain to create new pathways. “
Participants report improved mobility, posture, balance, handwriting, speech volume and a reduction in daily functional challenges.
The program also is beneficial to people who care for a person living with Parkinson’s disease. For example, if a caregiver has difficulty helping someone get out of a chair, Think, Move and Improve will provide strategies for the caregiver. Eichinger says, “People with Parkinson’s tend to keep their arms and legs closed in making their base narrow; you can’t get out of a chair like that. We encourage a wide base of support, keeping legs and hips wide which helps people get out of a chair and maintain balance.”
She concludes, “People want to be able to maintain abilities for as long as they can and reduce fall risks. Think, Move and Improve gives dignity back to these individuals.”