January 11, 2017

New Experiences, New Ideas, and New Challenges Can Help Seniors Stay Healthy and Involved

“We are the ‘Go To’ place for aging well,” says Susan W. Hoskins, LCSW, executive director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC). “It’s important to have social interaction, a sense of purpose to engage your mind and learn new things in order to have better overall health and brain health.”

The number of older Americans is increasing all the time. Studies show that each day, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65, and will continue to do so over the next several years. Not only are there more older people but their longevity is increasing. One of the fastest growing age groups is people 80-plus!

If people are living longer, then the idea is to live better. In other words, to remain as healthy as possible and to be engaged, involved, and active. Expanding one’s horizons can be revitalizing at any age, and fortunately, the Princeton area community offers a wide variety of opportunities for physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being.

One of the most intellectually stimulating programs is the PSRC Evergreen Forum. Providing daytime study and discussion programs for adults in the Princeton area, it encourages active participation for those for whom the love of learning is important.

Spring Program

The upcoming spring program offers 28 courses encompassing a wide range of subjects: literature, film, science, art, economics, history, and current world events, among others. Classes last two hours and begin in February. Registration is now available at www.theevergreenforum.org

In addition to Evergreen Forum, PSRC offers a range of other classes, seminars, activities, movies, and exercise programs. The weekly bridge games are a big attraction as are the spirited ping-pong competitions. 1,200 people participate in classes and activities each week.

PSRC was recognized for its role as an important resource for older adults and their families when it became the first senior center in New Jersey to receive the Age Friendly Community Award, given by the World Health Organization.

When seniors decide they have spent enough time shoveling snow, raking leaves, and dealing with the many and  varied issues involved in maintaining a house, many make the move to a senior living community. A plethora of these abound in the Princeton area, and Stonebridge at Montgomery in Skillman offers extensive opportunities as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), which includes independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation. Residents can stay in the same community even as their needs might change.

An important aspect of the Stonebridge philosophy is its emphasis on individuality and personalization, explains Stacey J. Judge, Community Wellness Program Director of Stonebridge and Springpoint Senior Living. (The latter owns Stonebridge). “Our LivWell Program was designed to engage residents on a variety of levels. We have programming available across seven dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, environmental, spiritual, and vocational.

 “One of the things we are seeing with LivWell is the emphasis on life-style. We ask residents to fill out a questionnaire about their life. What are their passions? Music, art? And what are their goals?”

Ground Up

Ms. Judge has seen changes in retirement communities over the years, and Stonebrige is an example of the new philosophy. “We built Stonebridge from the ground up. There is much more personalization now. This is so important. When we’re younger, in many ways, we are more alike. As people get older, they’ve had more life experiences, and there are more differences. Today, at Stonebridge, residents are active partners in their life plan.

“If people are living longer, they need to live healthier. Our philosophy for wellness is to provide the opportunity for people to stay engaged in whatever they want.”

Stonebridge offers an array of activities and programs, continues Ms. Judge. “We wanted to create a CCRC that would enhance wellness, stimulate intellectual development, and encourage people to embrace new challenges.”

Among the amenities at Stonebridge are on-site health and wellness education, daily aquatic exercise classes, Socrates Cafe Philosophy group, cultural dance groups, community connections/local volunteer groups, and resident scholar lectures, among many other opportunities. Residents can try their hand at water colors, play billiards or bridge, attend discussion groups, read a book from the on-site library (8,000 choices!), or enjoy bird watching in the adjoining meadows.

Exercise programs include yoga and “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” for balance, points out Ms. Judge. “Strength building and aquatic exercise classes happen daily. Most of the science shows that physical activity, especially aerobic, is very beneficial to mental health. But of course, social programs and games like bridge also help. And, this year, we are launching a new program called the Brain Workout from Total Brain Health LLC.

“Science shows that the brain can change,” she adds. “It’s called neuro-plasticity, and people can continue to learn and relearn. For example, we brought in a baton, and asked some of the residents if they had once twirled a baton. Some said yes, but doubted that they could do it now. However, we urged them to try, and with practice, they twirled it again!”

Outside Community

Residents are encouraged to engage in off-campus projects too, and often attend concerts and plays in Princeton. “We encourage them to be active,” says Ms. Judge. “They live in our community but they are involved in the outside community and work on projects that benefit the wider community.”

Stonebridge and its sister senior community Meadow Lakes work hard to make a difference in the lives of their residents. Events are held frequently, and currently, the highly praised National Park Exhibit (in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the official establishment of the National Parks) is on display at Meadow Lakes and open to the public on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 2 p.m. through January.

As all the studies show, exercise is a significant part of healthy aging, and Princeton Wellness & Fitness, with locations in Princeton and Plainsboro, is an excellent exercise resource for people of all ages. It provides a comprehensive program of opportunities, including state-of-the-art fitness equipment, pools, sauna, steam room, a variety of exercise classes, and educational lectures and programs.

Its standard membership program is also a good fit with seniors, points out Jay Groves, EdD, MMHC, Princeton Fitness & Wellness Centers executive director, Population Health management. It includes quarterly check-ins with the on-site nurse, and bi-monthly check-ins with trainers, and “is optimally suited and designed for seniors who may not yet be experiencing a chronic medical condition. Our variety of exercise equipment, aquatics centers and group fitness classes allow us to provide every form of exercise that a senior might be interested in. In fact, at both of our centers, between 15 percent and 20 percent of our membership is over the age of 65.”

For its older members, it also offers specific programs targeted to their needs and goals. “We have a uniquely designed program called Movewell that provides exercise options for seniors living with chronic joint pain or post joint replacement surgery,” explains Mr. Groves. “The Movewell program meets two days a week in a small group format and includes warm water exercise, land-based exercise, and the opportunity to participate in a mind/body movement class of choice.

“The MoveWell program is ideally suited to individuals who are transitioning from out-patient physical therapy into a community-based fitness environment. They may also have specific conditions, such as various forms of chronic arthritis and fibromyalgia.”’

Back To Life

Princeton Fitness & Wellness offers other wellness programs for persons living with cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes. “We are also excited to announce a new wellness program at our Pinceton-Plainsboro center for people living with chronic back pain,” reports Mr. Groves. “It is called ‘Back to Life’ and includes Pilates, land-based exercise, and meditation as a way to help patients with chronic back pain become more functional and active in their daily lives.

“Though the exercise prescription for seniors living with any type of chronic medical condition must be personalized, there is good evidence to show that for almost any medical condition, the proper use of exercise and physical activity can be a powerful tool for managing one’s health and quality of life. Particularly for the senior population, the right form of exercise is indeed medicine.”

Thus, the importance of a continuing exercise program is always emphasized at Princeton Fitness & Wellness. As Mr. Grove points out, “The truth is, you cannot store up physical fitness, and as a consequence, exercise must be for a life-time for all of us.

“The relationship between mental and physical health is powerful and probably better understood now than ever before,” he adds. “Though we do not treat mental health conditions at the Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center, we provide a variety of mind/body movement classes, many of which incorporate meditation, mindfulness, or breath work, which have proven to be powerful tools for managing one’s mood and emotions.

“In addition, one of the most under-appreciated aspects of exercise is the daily and almost immediate impact it can have on mood and overall energy level. So, particularly for seniors, who can sometimes struggle with age-related mood disorders and loneliness, one of the best forms of ‘medicine’ is exercise. In addition, we work hard at Princeton Fitness & Wellness to know our members by name and create a culture which promotes community, a positive spirit, and brings hope to each member every day.”

For seniors, who need physical therapy after surgery or injury, the Princeton area offers numerous facilities. St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center (SLRC) in Lawrenceville has a long history in the region, and offers a full range of services, says Lisa Luskin, MPT, COMT, Out-patient Clinical Director.

Variety of Conditions

 “A large percentage of our out-patients are 65 or older, although we also provide treatment of orthopedic and neurologic conditions in patients 14 and older. Many of the patients we see who are 65 or older are extremely active and in good health overall.

“We see quite a variety of conditions at SLRC, as our therapists are skilled and experienced in treating both an orthopedic and neurologic patient population,” continues Ms. Luskin, who is also a physical therapist with certification in vestibular therapy and manual therapy. “Commonly seen post-op conditions include total hip, knee, and shoulder replacements, menisectomies, ACL repairs, and spine surgeries, including fusions and discectomies.

“Neurologic conditions  include Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain injury/brain surgery, and vestibular disorders (dizziness). We also see amputees and multiple trauma patiets (various injuries occurring after a fall or motor vehicle accident as well as chronic orthopedic conditions such as osteoarthritis, low back or neck pain, shoulder pain and osteoporosis. Our occupational therapists and speech therapists address cognitive impairments. Vision deficits and hand conditions are also addressed by occupational therapists.”

Whether patients resume an active life-style depends on their prior level of
function, explains Ms. Luskin. “The large percentage of patients, however, are often able to return to their prior level of function, and experience a significant reduction in pain and impairments. This is what we strive for.”

Ms. Luskin adds that continued exercise is crucial. “All patients are trained in and receive a customized home exercise program with written instructions and extensive training to ensure proper form and understanding. This is essential for a patient to maximize their recovery and maintain gains made in therapy.”

JAG Physical Therapy recently opened in Forrestal Village, and provides patients with a complete range of PT options. A comprehensive out-patient physical therapy company, it offers physical therapy care for general orthopedic, sports, and soft tissue injuries, workers’ compensation cases, and Medicare Patients, explains John Gallucci, Jr., ATC, PT, DPT, president, JAG Physical Therapy.

Individual Goals

JAG has 14 locations in New York and central New Jersey. Experienced physical trainers, athletic trainers, and exercise physiologists are available to serve patients with an array of PT needs. Post-op care, general body strengthening and rehabilitation, chronic pain syndromes and fitness services are all available.

JAG sees patients of all ages, says Mr. Gallucci — from four years old to 104! “We understand that each patient’s rehabilitation plan, no matter their age, will be unique to their individual goals. Commonly seen conditions in the 65 and older population are arthritis, especially in the knee joint, total hip and knee replacement surgeries, osteoporosis, acute or traumatic injuries, — for example, fractures from slips and falls — and muscle atrophy.

“JAG Physical Therapy’s slogan and daily motto is ‘Get Back the Life You Love’,” continues Mr. Gallucci. “With that being said, the goal of JAG Physical Therapy’s rehabilitation programs is to treat, rehabilitate, recondition, and return the patient to the physically satisfying life-style that they previously enjoyed. Our team emphasizes the importance of early injury recognition as well identifying when a previous injury may be recurring.”

Regarding continued exercise, Mr. Gallucci observes that “Even after your physical therapy is over, it’s important to know how to stretch and strengthen your muscles and their supporting structures safely and effectively. This post rehabilitation process is very important and can make the difference between coming back better than ever or having a major setback in your recovery.

“It’s important to recover correctly, and each JAG patient is sent home with an exercise program consisting of exercises that have been taught during their physical therapy session. Strengthening and stretching exercises are very important in maintaining a healthy life-style throughout your life, but may even be more important during the later years of life.

“The American College of Sports Medicine now recommends weight training for all people over 50,” continues Mr. Gallucci. The ACSM has reported that ‘by age 50, about 10 percent of muscle area is gone, and after 50, the rate of loss accelerates significantly.’ It has also been estimated that a loss of 15 percent muscle mass per decade, occurs in your sixties and seventies, and then a loss of about 30 percent from your eighties on.”

Muscle Mass

Muscle atrophy and loss of range of motion occur when the body becomes sedentary, he adds. “Participating in a strength training program not only strengthens the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, but it also requires motion of one’s body and joints. Arthritis pain can be combatted by strengthening the structures surrounding the joints to aid in joint movement and increasing range of motion and flexibility.”

In addition, he points out “lifting weights in conjunction with a healthy diet is a great way to shed a few of those unwanted pounds all while gaining strength and muscle mass. A strength training program has also been shown to benefit those who have Type 2 diabetes by aiding in keeping their glucose levels under control.”

With any exercise program, it is important to start slowly and follow the trainer’s advice, emphasizes Mr. Gallucci. “Remember that ‘too much, too soon’ is the number one cause of injuries during exercise. Start your program slowly and learn the motions of the exercise before adding weight.

Strength training is becoming more and more popular for the older population, he adds. “This is due not only to the number of physical benefits but also to the increased sense of independence and confidence a strong healthy body provides. Remember to consult with your physician, start off slow, take breaks when needed, and you will be well on your way to a healthier life-style.”

Looking good is appealing at any age, and along with fitness, exercise and working out at the gym, many older individuals are opting for cosmetic procedures to enhance their appearance. No one wants to look tired if they aren’t tired, and there are varied ways to address such concerns today. In addition to surgery, many other methods and opportunities are now available to help create a refreshed and revitalized appearance.

Eugenie Brunner, M.D., P.A. is a specialist in plastic surgery and also otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), and has practiced in Princeton for 19 years. A graduate, with honors, from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School-The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, she continued training at New York University, with an otolaryngology residence. She then pursued advanced studies in facial plastic surgery at the University of Toronto under the auspices of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Greatest Pleasure

She found that her greatest pleasure was in plastic surgery. “This is what I really loved. I love the surgical and the artistic part of working with my hands.”

Dr. Brunner helps people of all ages, but a large portion of her practice is the older population. “A lot of my patients are in their sixties, seventies, and eighties,” she notes. “I don’t even think of them as seniors. They are so active and involved. Many are still in the work force, and they want to look refreshed and revitalized. They are both men and women, and they are often working along side people in their twenties, thirties and forties, so they want to look better and feel better at work. Not younger necessarily, but looking refreshed, less tired, and maybe appearing just a bit older than their colleagues.”

Surgery is still an option, of course, for people sixty, seventy, and eighty, says Dr. Brunner, but non-surgical procedures are increasingly popular, and there are many options for patients.

 “The new opportunities and technology are amazing,” she reports. “We can help someone on so many different levels. For example, I have 12 different laser treatments today.”

Laser procedures, fillers such as Botox, Restylane, Juvederm, and Radiesse are all important choices today, as well as various peels. They help smooth the texture of the skin, reduce dark spots and pigmentation, lines and wrinkles, scarring, and in the case of laser procedures, even tighten the skin along the jaw line and under the chin.

“Laser treatments can be used around the eyes to reduce crepiness and lines,” she adds. “Botox is typically used to reduce the ‘frown’ lines between the eyebrows and Restylane, Juvederm, and Radiesse can soften the naso-labial folds from the nose to the mouth.

Better Care

“Peels can help smooth the texture of the skin, and laser treatments now can be used instead of peels. Deep laser treatments are used fro resurfacing and can help pigments and even encourage development of new collagen.”

People of all ages are more aware of health generally, notes Dr. Brunner. “They’re living longer and taking better care of themselves and being proactive. They are using sun block and having facials, which are beneficial to the skin.”

She points out that the non-surgical treatments do not replace a face lift, however. “My job is to present a realistic assessment. Everyone is different, with different goals, but the non-surgical treatments can be very helpful in achieving a fresher, smoother look.”

Of course, individuals have different attitudes about aging and appearance. However, outward appearance can affect inner feelings and self-esteem, and Dr. Brunner can offer an opportunity for improved appearance for those who wish it.

“There is great satisfaction and pleasure in helping people to look and feel better. I want to be able to fulfill my patients’ hopes and expectations, and achieve good results.”