From lectures to exercise sessions and art classes, local senior communities are focused on supporting the mind, body and spirit of their residents. “We want to help our residents live longer, healthier, happier lives,” notes Heather Finkelston, director of The Willows in Chesterfield.
At The Willows, seniors can participate in a range of classes to promote their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, occupational and spiritual well-being. Popular exercise sessions include aerobics, seated exercise, yoga and aqua-robics. “The daily 9 a.m. exercise class is a morning ritual for many of our residents,” Finkelston says. “They can use weights, move to the music and take it to the next level if they can.” The classes also act as a social event, she adds. “They see their friends and just laugh and have a really good time with it. There’s a lot of camaraderie; and they always are looking out for each other.”
Music, art and computer courses, as well as guest lectures, are held weekly to stimulate residents’ minds, Finkelston says. From classical and contemporary songs, residents take part in a sing-a-long piano class, or perform solo during special events. “It’s wonderful to realize how much talent is among our own residents. From artists and musicians to computer engineers, they are constantly staying active with each other,” Finkelston says. A professional artist leads a painting class, where beginners to pros can pick up a brush and get creative on their canvas out on the community’s patio. In the campus’ theater, lectures on current news to historic events are hosted by university professors and health talks are led by local physicians.
Weekly social outings, such as trips to Missouri Botanical Garden, the Herrmann wineries, and the St. Louis Symphony, also keep Willows’ residents busy. And volunteer work at local hospitals, schools and libraries allow seniors the opportunity to give back to the community.
At Aberdeen Heights in Kirkwood, residents have their own health and wellness committee to provide feedback on current activities and plan future programs. Classes focus on physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, creative and service-oriented wellness. “We are constantly evolving our programs to meet their interests,” says executive director Scott Polzin.
The community’s fitness program offers seated exercise, Pilates, water aerobics, a competitive traveling volleyball team and a walking club. “We have such an active community,” Polzin notes.
Social activities include movie and game nights, card clubs and quilting. “People are able to move in and have interaction with other seniors and find others with similar interests,” Polzin explains.
Intellectual courses range from book clubs to author appearances. “Residents also share talents they have because we have so many professionals who live here, from engineers to psychologists,” says lifestyles coordinator Zoe Cangas.
Seniors also can stretch their imaginations in the arts and crafts room, and even enter an annual juried art show for ages 65 and older. “The message is that life isn’t over after 65,” Cangas notes. “All these talented people can create pieces that are just as good as or better than they ever have.”
Spurred on by one philanthropic-minded resident, a year-old volunteer program allows seniors in the independent living area of the community to lend a helping hand to those in the assisted-living section. Residents read to one another, and reminisce to try to brighten their day and make them smile, Cangas says.
At Bethesda senior living communities in Clayton and Webster Groves, programs cover health education, as well as exercise and wellness activities for the mind and body, explains Amy Trau, senior VP for health care services. “We surveyed our residents and found that they had a variety of interests, so we try to meet those.”
Seniors can attend monthly wellness talks, on topics such as diet and nutrition, safety in the home and exercise. To exercise their bodies, residents can choose among aerobics, Tai Chi, seated exercise, aqua aerobics and sessions with personal trainers. “The older we become, the more prone we are to falling, so we have a fitness testing program for balance, endurance and risk of falling,” Trau says. To exercise their minds, residents participate in word association and trivia activities. “Studies have shown that these can help prevent or delay the onset of dementia,” Trau notes. And groups will even get together to simply reminisce, she adds. “It helps their overall attitudes—it’s very therapeutic.”
The wide variety of health and wellness programs at community residents’ fingertips has brought overwhelmingly positive feedback, according to local directors. “We really want them to be as healthy as they can and be able to live out rest of their lives how they desire,” Finkelston says.