by Natalie Wilcox McCann
Director of Resident Services
Judson Park Retirement Community
When area senior Iris Hecks moved into the retirement community where her mother had lived, she knew she would enjoy many aspects of her apartment and assumed she would make more friends. She had no idea she would improve her health and impress her doctors through the improvements in her bone density and strength.
Iris is now a poster child for the active, healthy lifestyle promoted in many senior living communities. She now serves as a vital volunteer within the community, connecting with other residents needing more care. She has taken part in Cognitive Health classes to benefit memory and brain plasticity, eventually graduating to become a tutor to other seniors in the community. She rarely misses a day of exercise class, and during recent health challenges, Iris has bounced back quickly. In addition to participating in her church services and activities, Iris find spiritual replenishment through weekly nature hikes. Iris is a wonderful example of Successful Aging and an exemplary model of whole-person wellness.
Whole-Person (or Holistic) Wellness can be defined in many ways. Most definitions reflect that of one’s physical being, one’s emotional status and one’s spiritual strength interplay to create overall wellbeing. A simplistic way of understanding holistic health may be to recognize that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Focusing only on one muscle group or characteristic of your health may unfortunately have a negative impact on other critical aspects of wellbeing. Most experts agree that the following five areas are crucial elements of whole-person health:
- Social/Emotional Wellbeing (being connected, having a support system, managing stress, manifesting optimism)
- Physical Health (including cardiovascular wellness, flexibility/balance and strength rather than just the absence of disease)
- Intellectual Health (the ability to use thoughts and logic to solve problems)
- Spiritual Wellbeing (connectedness with a higher power, the eternal part of one’s self that provides solace in times of challenge)
- Occupational/Vocational Health (having a sense of purpose or being needed by someone else either for paid or unpaid work)
For many older adults, having a longer life is not necessarily the goal. They may have outlived a spouse or friends and may have seen more changes than they thought possible in the world around. Instead, experiencing a quality life, one filled with laughter, meaningful use of time, friendship and respect, is of greater significance.
Often we suppose that we have no control of our health issues, believing that we age as our parents did and that genetics predispose us to the same disease processes. However, the book “Successful Aging,” by Drs. Rowe and Kahn, debunks this myth. Based on a ten-year MacArthur Foundation Study on Aging, “Successful Aging” shares the research which reflects a different reality: while there are some disease processes that are unavoidable, only 30% of the way we age is driven by genetics; 70% is based on our lifestyle choices!
What does this mean for those of us looking our older years in the eye? How can we take stock of how we spend our time and make the best decisions possible? Some local seniors, like Iris, have taken advantage of one of the benefits of living at Judson Park Retirement Community in Des Moines, WA, where a partnership exists with another not-for-profit organization, Masterpiece Living. Masterpiece Living was created through the efforts of Dr. Kahn, the co-author of “Successful Aging” who believed that we should not just study the impact of lifestyle choices on aging, but also put what we learn into practice! Masterpiece Living offers tools to promote healthy lifestyle choices which include assessments: the Lifestyle and Mobility Review and Mobility Booster as well as health initiatives including Walk to Wellness, My Stress Solution, Vertical (a Fall Reduction program), Neurobics and more!
When asked how the positive lifestyle changes she has made to benefit her whole-person have impacted her life, Iris replied, “Taking part in the programs that Judson Park has to offer has given me a greater sense of self-worth and usefulness. I feel more confident and better about myself.”
Iris also stated that knowing she is surrounded by like-minded others and a support structure of a continuing care community like Judson Park has given her peace of mind and a sense of serenity. Now that’s a wonderful example of whole-person wellness!
For more information about Judson Park, visit their website: www.judsonpark.com.
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