Attract Boomers and Encourage Innovative Fitness at a Senior Community
As Baby Boomers age, they will be looking for communities in which they can maintain their active lifestyles despite physical limitations that they may encounter. There are a multitude of ways to offer wellness programs in a senior living community and each are important in order to accommodate a broad range of physical abilities. Offering unique technologically-advanced fitness options such as an aquatic therapy pool with underwater treadmill and resistance jet can set a senior living community apart from others in the area.
The equipment itself can attract residents, but it is also important to successfully incorporate the technology into your wellness programs. This will ensure a positive return on investment as well as word of mouth referrals and buzz.
From a piece, “Underwater Treadmills Woo Boomers to Retirement Communities, Encourage Innovative Fitness Programs,” Kim Eichinger, Executive Director of Fitness at Country Meadows Retirement Communities, offers some elements of her favorite successful exercise programs that she uses with her residents:
Step One: The Warm-Up
As any fitness instructor knows, the warm-up stage is integral to the overall success of any training session. Even in tepid water (we keep our pool at around 92 degrees Fahrenheit), the warm-up is equally as important as in land-based fitness routines.
I typically like to start the warm-up from the bottom of the body and work upward. Thus, the short warm-up typically includes:
Heel-Toe Raises – The rocking motion encourages plantar flexion and dorsa flexion, which is essential for walking heel to toe. This movement is important for forward propulsion when walking and helps prevent shuffling.
Side-to-Side Rocking – Helps to prepare for weight shifting and side stepping patterns. In addition to the heel-toe raises, this is a great exercise for working the sides of the feet. Often, this is one area that’s ignored during warm-ups, but it’s essential for a positive outcome on an underwater treadmill. It also helps engage the hips and legs.
Trunk Rotation and Posture Press Ups – The handrails of a HydroWorx pool work as a great feature to assist with exercises that encourage upright posture and trunk movement. By lightly pressing down on the rails to extend the spine and by reaching across the body to grasp the rails, participants can perform exercises to engage the core muscles.
Step Two: Walking Workout
Because of its intrinsic nature, the underwater treadmill lends itself to walking. However, I try not to allow our community’s residents to simply walk as they would normally do on land. By forcing them to think about their posture, gait and speed, I can give them an extremely comprehensive workout that leaves them feeling refreshed but not uncomfortable.
During the walking workout, I employ the following methods to get a significant calorie burn:
Arm-Swing Progressions – Reconnecting arm swing with walking is important for mobility. Participants who ambulate with a walker typically do not swing their arm when walking. We can gradually connect arm swing with walking and still have the safety of the bars to assist the participant while they progress from swinging one arm to both arms.
Level 2 Arm Swing – As arm swing coordination improves strength and endurance can continue to be challenged by extending the arms through a greater range of motion or with more force against the natural resistance of the water. Interval training can also be performed by alternating periods of walking while grasping the bars, then swinging arms while standing in place and then walking while swinging arms.
Cross-Shoulder Swing – The motion of the cross-shoulder swing also provides a boost to the caloric “burn” of the underwater treadmill walking routine. When the arms are forced to move across the body against the natural resistance of the water, their flexibility and strength are engaged.
Step Three: Range of Motion, Strength and Balance
I feel it would be remiss to simply offer walking in a HydroWorx pool; after all, there’s so much more to do! For instance, range of motion, strength and balance (all of which are daily concerns of aging residents) can all be improved during the underwater treadmill workout.
Below are three of my favorite exercises to introduce:
Sit-Back Hip Stretch – Holding onto the bars for balance (or doing so without them, if possible), an individual can “sit back” in the water, bending downward to stretch the upper legs and hip area. To emphasize balance and give the abdominals a workout, I ensure that the core is engaged during this process.
Hip Abduction – Important for balance and walking. The handrails and resistance jet allow for a number of options for varying positions and resistance level in performing these exercises. This is also a great exercise to prepare participants for the strength, range of motion and coordination for side stepping on the underwater treadmill.
Balance Exercises Using Jets – Because the pools come with resistance jets, I use them to build balance. During the training, I have participants stand on both legs, then on one at a time, while the jets are on. Again, the handrails are available for protection and comfort if necessary.
Step Four: Massage
By attaching the massage hose to the resistance jets, my residents can get a deep tissue massage along their legs, arms and back. It’s a great way to cool down, as it facilitates blood flow and reduces edema. So many of the Boomers I work with rave about how good it feels… and how it keeps them from getting sore the next day. Massage also enhances the social component of the cool down phase of the class. Participants love to relax and chat and this makes a nice closure to the workout.
“They can’t believe it– they can’t believe the way their body feels! They just love it!”
Get more great ideas for aquatic programs from Kim Eichinger during her webcast on September 23, 2014 at 4:00pm EDT. Register here>>