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Tailoring Senior Exercise to Individual Need

'Losing our body is like losing our best friend,' said Larry Prescott, who runs a local assisted living and dementia care community. Exercise needs to be adapted to a senior's needs.

As people age they tend to stay at home and get less exercise through daily  activities, such as trips to the grocery store, said Larry Prescott, executive director of Grand Villa.

"The fear of falling, pain from arthritis and neuropathy of the feet, and not recouping as quickly from illnesses often keep people from exercising," Prescott said.

The Gulfport Senior Center is a popular place to exercise.

"The exercise is very stimulating and you feel good after the hour or however long you are here," said Fitness Center member, Laurel Page.

Senior Fitness Center volunteer Flo Moon said fitness meets social and physical needs.

"Fitness is very important no matter how old you are...it helps very much to get out and socialize," Moon said.

Exercise needs to be adapted to the individual's needs.

"Person-centered exercise takes the time to determine individual needs. It is completely focused on our residents and what is going to make their life enriched," Prescott said.

"Losing our body is like losing our best friend. It can be very depressing and can inhibit motivation to do anything," Prescott said.

The key is having the right exercise facilitator, "having somebody in place who is talented enough to encourage people, knowing your resident's needs," Prescott said.

"So many issues are involved. (Residents) sometimes come from an era where they just sucked it up, and didn't complain," Prescott said.

When caregivers choose an assisted living facility, asking the right questions is essential. Related to exercise, Christine Rosco of Grand Villa suggests asking:

  1. What are you going to do to get to know my loved one, when he or she comes to live here?
  2. What do you do to make your programs more individualized for the needs of everyone?

"We mold our systems and adust to their individual needs rather than the residents adjusting to us," Prescott said.

Exercise is a lifestyle with many options available tailored to specific needs such as chair exercises, Tai Chi, working with weights, a walking program, dancing as a part of social activities, peer-led gardening, cooking classes for fine motor skills and Nintendo Wii sports, Prescott said.

The benefit of assisted living at Grand Villa is that residents don't need to leave home to get physical and mental exercise, Prescott said.

"Exercise is not necessarily jumping jacks, leg lifts and crunches. It is a person-centered way of living," Prescott said. "We want to be proactive and preventative."

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