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BestAge improves strength, ease of motion

Residents "kick the wall" to improve balance.1 / 7
The BestAge exercise group at Fair Oaks Apartments.2 / 7
Jack Olson lifts weights above his head.3 / 7
Vince Henrich, 96, puts in time on a Bio-Stepper.4 / 7
Mary Brown improves her strength on an exercise machine.5 / 7
Lois Bendikson stands erect and can walk again with an assist from Joan Brauch.6 / 7
Lifting weights.7 / 7

It was during 2007 that 13 nursing homes in the Care Venture Cooperatives developed a strength training program called BestAge, and in 2008, three more homes joined the program.

The name BestAge is an acronym derived from the following components: balance/flexibility, endurance strength, training.

Besides promoting self-confidence, which decreases chances of falling, BestAge can also reduce time spent being depressed or anxious, both robbers of health and happiness.

Joint atrophy, along with chronic disease, is the reason many elderly people are forced to spend their last days in a nursing home. Residents of Fair Oaks Lodge in Wadena, Long Prairie Memorial in Long Prairie, and Knute Nelson in Alexandria, in response to the Minnesota Department of Human Resources Nursing Facility Performance-Based Incentive grant, have the opportunity to participate in the BestAge Exercise Program.

Experts in exercise and sports sciences believe that the quality of life is highly dependent on muscle strength, particularly in older adults. They also believe that muscle mass and strength correlate inversely with a gradual lessening of independence a result.

BestAge is designed, via training and equipment offered to senior communities, to improve strength and ease of motion in older adults by outreach programs that can help make them an integral part of their communities again by staying healthier longer.

Participants do a range of exercises, each one based on BestAge principles. These are focused on improving strength which promotes good balance and lessens the danger of falling. Endurance and metabolism can improve as well as the increase in strength toned muscles. Participants are reassessed every three months to measure progress and, if needed, make adjustments.

Jack Olson, a resident at Fair Oaks Lodge, came in after a stroke toting almost no strength, a king-sized depression, and little hope. After being included in one of Joan Brauch's BestAge classes, and beginning to feel a bit of strength while transferring, he assumed it would continue and went home.

After two months of losing ground, he hustled back to avail himself of Joan's special brand of expertise and cheerleading. He needed BestAge's well thought-out strength program and the comfort of again belonging to a group.

Lois Bendikson came in with both knees locked. Now, not yet a year later, she stands erect and is walking with one assist. Participants especially look forward to group commands, like when they line up and are told to "Kick the wall!"

Mary Brown, a nursing home resident, began coming to BestAge strength groups soon after they were organized at Fair Oak Lodge. She didn't think she would gain much strength, but she enjoyed being with friends she knew would be there.

After several months of consistent passive strength exercises in the BestAge group with Joan supervising, she was transferred to Fair Oaks Apartment's assisted living quarters. Once Mary was convinced that her BestAge sessions would continue she was content.

Mary has been discharged to home. She plans to come back to Fair Oaks Apartments to take advantage of BestAge strength classes when they meet.

The importance of having lively dedicated leaders in these classes cannot be stressed enough. Fair Oaks Lodge is fortunate in having Joan Brauch, Janeen Engelke and Jeanne Graphenteen, all fulfilling the role of exercise technicians.

Research has proven that strength training, done consistently with special kinds of exercises as prescribed by exercise technicians, can bring about health benefits and reduce the decline of strength associated with aging.

Care Venture Cooperatives has existed since 1999 when a group of long-term care facilities leaders realized the ongoing challenges facing rural, independent facilities.

The Care Ventures Cooperatives concept to centralize shared costs for an exercise physiologist, project director and quality assurance specialist has been to the advantage of all 16 senior housing situations.

As we find baby boomers aging at an alarming rate we must lose no time in changing our views and letting smart ways to stay stronger in both mind and body be made available to everyone.