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Medically based wellness good for body and brain at any age

Posted May 21, 2018 5:53 p.m. EDT
Updated May 23, 2018 10:14 a.m. EDT

The Duke Center for Living at Fearrington encourages both physical and mental exercise to help keep the body and brain well. (Photo Courtesy of Galloway Ridge)

This story was written for our sponsor, Galloway Ridge at Fearrington.

At first glance, the treadmills and elliptical machines, along with weights and a roster of classes in tai chi or yoga, may seem like any other gym or fitness center. But in a medically based wellness center, the exercise is often used to treat a problem and is prescribed by a physician.

Gloria Scheiner, 82, remembers what it was like to be bedridden with arthritis. She knows what it's like to be stiff and tired every day.

Once in remission, she started moving and hasn't stopped. She begins most days at the Duke Center for Living at Fearrington, near Chapel Hill, with two miles on the treadmill. She ends most days the same way, often with an additional class or swimming session in the salt-water pool.

"I know what it is like to be stiff and tired every day," she said. "And I know what it feels like to have energy. Feeling energized and sleeping well motivate me."

The 20,000-square-foot Duke Center for Living at Fearrington caters to the 50-plus age group, but attracts members of all ages from nearby Pittsboro and Chapel Hill, according to Jennifer Rehm, the center's director. Residents of Galloway Ridge, a local Life Plan Community, have full access to the center.

For many members, exercise can reduce or minimize symptoms such as Scheiner's when given a tailored exercise prescription. The staff adheres to guidelines set by the American College of Sports Medicine.

The actual program for each member is based on the member's needs, Rehm said. Many members have their blood pressure monitored before, during and after exercise.

"All instructors understand how to modify for abilities," Rehm said.

An exercise physiologist is on the floor at all times to handle any emergency or answer questions. New members go through fitness testing to get a baseline of where they're starting. From this baseline, realistic goals can be set.

Older adults also want to work out their brains to keep their minds supple and reactive.

As the Galloway Ridge resident wellness program manager in independent living, Cori Cook works with the Duke Center for Living at Fearrington to offer the Total Brain Health program developed by Cynthia R. Green, Ph.D. The path to brain health includes memory training and techniques to remember names or to-do lists.

Brain health is multi-dimensional. The wellness program at Galloway Ridge seeks to offer programs to cover all dimensions of wellness: intellectual, social, emotional, environmental, spiritual, vocational and physical. This diversity can be seen in the classes offered: Scottish country-dance, gardening with native plants or learning about Seagrove pottery.

"The concept of wellness is individual to each person," Cook said. "One person's wellness and life balance differs from one to another. We strive to keep our programming fresh."

Staff regularly holds seminars about topics such as "Memory Loss: What's Normal and What's Not" and "Canes vs. Walkers: When to Use What." Residents are encouraged to share their passion, and often offer to lead what turn out to be among the most popular classes. For example, a resident writer recently led well-attended sessions on how to write your memoir.

Scheiner's advice is to get involved.

"Don't wait – later is now," she said. "This is the perfect place to use your time wisely in 2018."

This story was written for our sponsor, Galloway Ridge at Fearrington.