Staying mobile and eating well improve health outcomes in assisted living.

The residents of AlmaVia of Camarillo are no couch potatoes. They spend their days learning tai chi, playing tribal drums or taking walks around the community. Activities that promote and support mobility are important because scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Elder Care Alliance’s focus on physical health is part of its larger approach to holistic wellness as a best practice in senior care. Two aspects of physical wellness that improve daily life—and long-term outcomes—are mobility and nutrition.

Helping Preserve Senior Mobility
Mobility is vital to overall physical wellness because it leads to increased strength and independence.

When a resident first arrives at an Elder Care Alliance community, the Life Enrichment Director works with him to document key elements of his life and create a document with photos and text called the Life Story. They talk about the resident’s life: hometown, background, family, passions, vocation, interests and travel. All of this information assists the Director both in developing the life enrichment calendar of events as well as in knowing which events might most appeal to that resident’s specific interests. This helps further assimilate him into the community and foster engagement.

The activities offered at Elder Care Alliance communities are designed to get residents up and moving, but they don’t have to be extremely strenuous, says AlmaVia of Camarillo’s Life Enrichment Director Carolyn Myers. For example, when Myers found out that one of her residents came from Texas and loves cornbread, she arranged for staff to bake cornbread with him in the community kitchen.

Myers also creates exercise classes to keep residents mobile. One resident, Barbara, joined the better balance class. After just four months, she no longer needed to hold a chair for support during the class. Myers says residents who experience progress like that gain more confidence and are more able to do activities they enjoy.

In addition to traditional exercise classes Myers also organizes events such as bocce ball games, walking groups, ring toss games and tai chi. Residents can also request transportation to go to the local pool or other off-campus activities. “We have many activities that are so fun residents don’t even realize they’re exercising—that’s really the best type of exercise,” says Myers. The belief that people are more likely to stay physically active if they are doing what they love is a core part of Elder Care Alliance’s care philosophy.

Supporting Nutrition in Assisted Living
Proper nutrition is another key component of maintaining physical wellness at Elder Care Alliance communities. According to the National Institute On Aging, a healthy diet is important for managing the most common chronic illnesses among older adults including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, cancer and anemia.

When a resident first arrives at an Elder Care Alliance community the Director of Culinary Services is available to talk with her about specific dietary needs or health conditions. The staff then works to provide appropriate options at mealtimes to meet the resident’s needs.

At AlmaVia of Camarillo, Director of Culinary Services, Charles Bertok, meets with a dietitian quarterly to review the menu and ensure that residents are getting healthy and balanced choices. Bertok also meets with residents every week to get input on the upcoming menu. Based on that resident feedback, he has created new menu items and added beverages like green tea.

Mark Stelzer, Resident Care Director at AlmaVia of Camarillo, says he sees a marked improvement in residents compared to when they first arrive at the community. “We see fewer hospitalizations and greater emotional well-being,” he says.

With Elder Care Alliance’s focus on holistic wellness, helping residents stay active and mobile, and paying close attention to nutrition, Elder Care Alliance empowers residents to remain as healthy and independent as possible.