You could almost see them getting stronger as they practiced various exercises aimed at increasing their core strength.
They were participants of our program, Seniors and Wellness: Health Tips from the HealthPROs, the first of our fall Glenmeadow Learning offerings for older adults in the Greater Springfield area. They also learned from leader Katrina Francis, a physical therapist, what foods nourish the brain, how to drive safely, and the health benefits of various styles of meditation.
Katrina is the rehab program director for HealthPRO, which now offers an outpatient rehabilitation program at Glenmeadow, through which physical, occupational, and speech therapy is offered for residents. She offered tips in these areas:
Food for the brain
Katrina said the brain is the body’s control center and can light a 20-watt bulb with the electric energy it produces. “What we eat has a direct influence on the brain,” she said. “There is now proof that consuming certain foods can change our moods and help us think faster. A healthy diet can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”
She noted these foods are good for the brain: avocados, which keep blood sugar levels steady, prevent blood clots in the brain, protect against stroke, and improve cognitive function; beets, which reduce inflammation, are high in cancer-protecting antioxidants, and help rid your blood of toxins; blueberries, which protect our brains from stress; and bananas, which provide serotonin for mood improvement.
With changes in vision and hearing, as well as a decrease in overall strength, driving becomes more difficult for seniors, who process and react more slowly.
Katrina recommended that seniors work on their physical strength and flexibility to increase the ability to brake, turn easily for increased viewing of the roadway, and get in and out of a vehicle. She also said seniors should avoid excessive conversation with passengers so that they are fully focused on the road. She recommended purchasing larger side mirrors that capture a broader view, and being aware of changes in medication or dosage, as that can affect reaction time.
Increase core strength in general
Muscles in the abdomen support internal organs as well as the spine; without a strong core, other muscles are forced to pick up the slack, making it more difficult to get up and down from a chair, in and out of the shower, or to walk. “When you strengthen those muscles, you also increase your balance, and thus decrease your risk of falling,” Katrina said.
Katrina recommended—and had participants practice—several core-strengthening exercises and suggested physical training or therapy for seniors who want to increase their stamina and strength.
Meditation for the health of it
Katrina said meditation helps seniors manage pain, reduce anxiety, boost their immune systems, enhance attention, lower their blood pressure and improve sleep. She offered a look at several different types of meditation, including “Loving Kindness Meditation,” which involves focusing on what you love about yourself and others; and “mantra meditation,” in which you focus on a phrase, sound, syllable, or word.
Glenmeadow Learning is one of many free programs Glenmeadow offers to members of the wider community. These programs represent only one facet of the Life Plan Community’s mission to serve seniors across the region and to operate as a socially accountable organization.
We have two programs coming up next month. Rock ’N Talk: Young@Heart Film and Q&A with Chorus Members will be held Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. at Glenmeadow. And Improv and Anecdotes: Lessons on Storytelling through Humor will be held Friday, Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to noon at Glenmeadow. Learn more or register.