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Fitness is for Everyone, No Matter How Old You Are


A recent article in the Chicago Tribune “Primetime” section may be of interest to readers who themselves are reaching their golden years or who have parents and other relatives who are in that stage of life. The story focused on the manager of a new outpatient wellness program at a nursing home in a Chicago suburb.

The program’s director, Anita Rajagopal, has identified three goals for the program, aimed at senior citizens.  The first is to help people age in the place where they live, no matter what type of situation that may be.  She also wants to educate this population about the continuing benefits of exercise and a healthy diet.  Finally, she wants to improve their strength and balance, since it is well known that falls are a major cause of disability among the elderly.

Ms. Rajogopal sees this kind of wellness program as working in concert with rehabilitation programs that help people who have had a recent illness or surgery to transition from a hospital to their residence.  The rehab program at the nursing home in Wheaton, Illinois where she works typically keeps patients for 30 to 90 days.

We live in an age where people are not only living much longer lives but are trying to maintain an active lifestyle well into their senior years.  Among other things, this has led to a surge in knee and hip replacement surgeries.  People who have these procedures typically undergo several weeks of intensive physical therapy in order to learn to walk again.  A wellness program can be seen as an extension of a rehabilitation program.

The wellness program in DuPage County was started in August, 2011.  Patients, age 55 and older, are assessed by an exercise physiologist, who works with the patient to design an exercise program.  Participants then pay $10 per month while in the program.  So far results have shown that participants typically are coming to the center 2 to 4 times per week.

Workouts usually consist of a combination of weight training and cardio workouts on treadmills or elliptical exercise machines.  Some machines are designed to accommodate people who cannot stand.  Treadmills have special rails to grasp that help participants steady themselves.  Large exercise balls are used to help improve balance.

Ms. Rajagopal told the Tribune that her program is not meant to compete with gyms.  The program does provide quarterly assessments to help gauge progress.  At present, the center has 30 members in the program.

People are now working well past the point where people previously retired.  There is a price to be paid for maintaining an active lifestyle.  Having a good quality of life is not easy.  Programs like this are going to be increasingly necessary if the U.S. population is going to age gracefully.

Readers are encouraged to submit comments if you are aware of similar programs that have had success.  Wellness is one of the areas of study at the United States Sports Academy.  If you have information you would like to share email the editor at gtyler@ussa.edu.


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