Live 2 B Healthy program aims to keep seniors active

Staying active, at every age

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VernAnn Baxter is 101 years old and in a wheelchair, but she doesn’t let either of those things stop her from lifting weights on a regular basis.

Her secret to long life?

“I don’t think there’s a secret to it,” she said. “I’ve always tried to eat the right things and get a little exercise.”

A resident of Summit Point Senior Living in Marion, Baxter is a participant in Live 2 B Healthy, a fitness program aimed at seniors.

The class meets three times a week at the center, and similar classes are held at senior living facilities around the Corridor.

Live 2 B Healthy is a Minnesota-based company that brings certified personal trainers into senior living centers to teach classes tailored to the resident’s abilities.

Chris Pipkin owns an Eastern Iowa franchise, with eight class locations in Cedar Rapids and Marion.

“Seniors often cannot come to a gym, so we bring the expertise to them,” he said.

The classes are designed to help attendees maintain and build strength with weights, resistance bands and stretches.

“Specifically for seniors, their biggest risk is falling. Often when we lose balance, the reason we go to the ground is lack of muscle,” he said. “As we age, we lose that strength, so all our classes are strength classes to rebuild muscles we lose through aging.”

Every four months, class attendees are assessed on their balance, lower and upper body strength and flexibility.

Pam Goodyear, life enrichment director for Summit Pointe Senior Living, said she’s been impressed watching resident’s metrics improve.

In one year of the class, the group’s balance improved 24 percent, and arm curls improved 179 percent, according to the assessments.

The exercises are designed to help with everything from maintaining mobility to daily tasks like buttoning a shirt or pulling up socks. One of the exercises is touching each finger to the palm. That seems simple, but it can help maintain flexibility in the face of arthritis.

“It’s the everyday living things a lot of people take for granted,” Goodyear said.

The classes vary depending on location, from places with full nursing care to assisted living to independent living communities.

“I’ve literally had people hooked up to IVs in the class,” Pipkin said. “We’ve had blind people, the hard of hearing, those with memory issues. The point being, there’s really no excuses for anyone, whatsoever. Just because we’re aging, that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from physical exercise.”

The classes are free to anyone, whether they live at Summit Pointe or not. That’s true for all the Live 2 B Healthy class locations — the public is always welcome to attend, Pipkin said.

Goodyear said such programs are an important part of increasing quality of life for residents.

“We want people to come here to continue to live their lives,” she said. “We just want to keep people active and moving.”

Residents also benefit from socialization, she added.

Baxter agreed.

“I enjoy it, the exercises and then interacting with the other girls,” she said. “I see people I don’t see everyday.”

Edith Moorhead, 93, attended the class wearing a Blue Zones T-shirt. She said she also is part of a walking moai — a Blue Zones concept centered on small groups who meet to walk and help each other stay active.

Convincing herself to attend the class isn’t always easy, she said, but it’s always worth it.

“Some days it’s an effort, but I always feel better after I’ve come,” she said.

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