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“Whatever It Takes to Get Residents to Move...”

Posted: September 15, 2017

We recently published the fall issue of Thriving in Community, JCHE's newsletter featuring timely stories and information. One of the stories is reproduced below. 

“Whatever It Takes to Get Residents to Move...”

That’s how Francine Godfrey, director of JCHE’s Fitness & Wellness program, sums up her philosophy on fitness.

Francine’s program is indispensable to our mission to enhance and improve the health and wellbeing of our residents, allowing them to thrive as they age in community. And not just because of its physical component. Equally critical is how Francine and her staff leverage the fitness program to encourage even our most isolated residents to socialize.

The science is clear on the shocking health effects of isolation: according to Heart Journal, loneliness increases the risk of heart disease by 29% and the risk of a stroke by 32%.

We know that because isolated residents almost never leave their apartments, they’re also the least active, and therefore, the ones who need exercise the most.

To tackle this vicious cycle of isolation and inactivity, Francine started an in-home exercise program, where fitness staff actually go into the apartments of these isolated residents. This took some outside-the-box thinking, because we’re not an assisted-living organization. But it was the only way to ensure that these residents had access to physical activity and social interaction.

Slowly, as staff gain the trust of these residents, they get comfortable enough to leave their apartments and to walk down corridors, until eventually, they muster the courage to walk into the gym!

“To age healthfully, you have to keep moving,” Francine explains. “And because everyone is different, I base my programs on individual needs.”

Indeed, you won’t find any “cookie cutter” programs at JCHE. All our programs and services are tailored to residents’ specific needs, and Francine’s fitness program exemplifies this.

For some people, our basic exercise regimen — which includes strength and conditioning training, aerobics, and free weights—is sufficient to keep them active and healthy.

For residents who are at a higher risk for falls—and especially residents with Parkinson’s—our Balance class, with its emphasis on body awareness, coordination, and strength, is more advantageous.

Those with cognitive and physical impairment benefit most, perhaps, from less physically rigorous exercises like seated stretching and toning, taught in our “Music and Movement” class. And our Exercise Seated Ball class is structured so that even our frailest residents can participate.

Then there’s meditation, Zumba, Yoga, Tai chi, and our new and very popular Posture Pop class that teaches participants how to breathe while walking, dancing, and sitting.

Francine and her staff are always innovating. They listen to residents, and look for creative ways to engage them. This mindset allows them to be absolutely relentless in addressing each person’s unique needs.

Innovation is Francine’s strong suit when it comes to drawing in curious residents who have never attended a fitness class. A perfect example is her “Maestro Class.” Set to classical music, residents “conduct” using chopsticks. “It is so much fun and really great exercise!” Francine notes with her inimitable enthusiasm.

“Another one of our goals is to reduce how much medication our older adults take,” says Francine, a certified arthritis exercise instructor, who teaches an arthritis class with this objective in mind. “Residents have come up to me after a class, and said, ‘I don’t have to take pain medication after your class!’”

“I call it the ‘anything that hurts class’,” Francine jokes, although our residents would say it’s a perfectly accurate description.

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