Five Ways Exercise Can Reduce Loneliness and Improve Health in Older Adults

If loneliness were a virus, we’d call it a pandemic. According to the AARP, more than half of adults 50 and over have reported experiencing social isolation due to COVID-19. And that’s a problem: As the AARP also points out, decades of research have taught us that prolonged social isolation and loneliness are more damaging to your health than obesity and as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

What can you do? How about a both/and: moving your muscles for your body while making social connections for your mind and spirit. In other words, try exercise but with a twist. Do it in the company of others.

Besides being good for your health, exercising with a buddy or group can be a big part of the cure for loneliness. So call a friend, ask them to join your “team,” and make your exercise routine your social routine, too.

Here are five tips to get started exercising to combat loneliness:

  1. Walk and talk with your friend.
    Get all the neighborhood dirt while cleaning out your arteries. Walking and talking is actually a great barometer to track your fitness— doctors call it the “the talk test.” If you find yourself getting winded, slow down your pace and gradually increase it day by day.
  2. Join a group exercise class.
    Studies have shown that group exercise class can reduce the symptoms of depression by 30% or more in exercising older adults. (If you hate exercise but enjoy being with friends, this might be the cure for you.)
  3. Join a sport club or league.
    Tennis or golf, volleyball or pickleball—choose something new or a past pastime. Rediscover your competitive spirit or just enjoy the camaraderie of a team. Leagues have schedules you commit to, making it more likely you’ll stick with it, especially if you don’t like to let others down.
  4. Work out with a personal trainer.
    A personal trainer will motivate you while also providing the bonus of companionship. Ageility offers fitness training from certified instructors who focus on where you’re at right now as well as your personal goals. Find out if there’s an Ageility clinic near you.
  5. Revisit an old exercise “flame.”
    Haven’t played tennis or golf (or something else) in 20 years but want to start up again? Pick up that racquet or nine-iron and remember what you loved about the sport, and don’t worry if you’re rusty. Ask a friend you used to play with or a newer acquaintance to join you once a week for a set date.
  6. Try a partner workout.
    Simple exercises can become a lot more fun with a friend. Watch our Ageility trainers demonstrate a simple partner workout – you simply can’t do it alone.

You get the picture. This pandemic time is a time to lean on others to get you moving again. The great thing is, soon you won’t be leaning but standing up straight. Exercise can be much easier when you’re not the only one doing it. Plus, if you invite a friend to join you, chances are they’re in the same boat and will be grateful you asked.

Tip: Especially if you’ve been sedentary, consult your doctor or a physical therapist before starting an exercise regimen. Ageility therapists and fitness trainers are specially qualified to work with older adults and help them reach their goals.

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This Blockbuster “Drug” Defies Aging

Senior Exercise Is Medicine for Your Body—and Soul

It’s hard to admit sometimes, but as we age, so do our bodies. Loss of muscle tone, bone density and tissue elasticity along with weight gain can make what experts call your “biological age” feel older than your chronological age—when what you really want is to feel younger than your years. No wonder the internet is awash in miracle cures for aging, from unregulated natural supplements to expensive anti-wrinkle creams.

But what if there were a drug all the experts agreed on, one proven to help you lose weight, build strength and agility, ease gastro symptoms, improve your sleep, prevent disease, reduce stress, lift your mood—even enhance your sexual health? You’d probably want a daily dose of this drug, wouldn’t you? Well, good news. Not only are you eligible for this prescription, it’s available to you right now! You know it by its generic name: exercise.

Moving is medicine for seniors – and everyone!

Physical activity of just about any kind can add not only years to your life, but life to your years. In fact, so numerous are its benefits that if exercise were a pill, it would be flying off the pharmacy shelves. Especially for older adults, it’s nothing short of a miracle cure. Senior exercise is known to provide a host of health benefits, including maintaining a healthy weight, reducing risk of heart disease and diabetes complications, promoting bone, joint and muscle health, preventing constipation, sharpening memory and thinking skills and promoting sexual health.

All well and good, but what if you’ve never had much success sticking to an exercise routine? Here’s a tip: Try thinking of senior exercises as a medicine to take versus something one has to do. It can help motivate you to get that daily dose—and shake off any guilty feelings when you don’t. Unlike some prescriptions, missing a dose of this drug is not a big deal. The point is to keep reaching for it.

There are some important similarities between senior exercise and medication when it comes to improving your health. For example, either works best when individualized. As with a drug, each exercise “prescription’ should vary depending on type, duration, intensity, and frequency. Second, each person benefits from knowing which senior exercise type and routine may work best for them; consulting a trainer or taking a class can provide this kind of guidance. This is why the certified fitness experts at Ageility, for example, insist on an upfront assessment to evaluate an individual’s current health profile and abilities as well as their goals—what their own personal “cure” would look like.

Medicine for body and mind

In addition to what it does for physical health, senior exercise offers multiple benefits that help overall cognitive function. When your mind is stressed, it sends a message to many different nerve connections that cause your body to feel depleted. Conversely, healing your body—say, through exercise—will help heal your mind as well. Exercise helps your body produce endorphins that decrease depression, lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, and boost self-esteem. Release of endorphins also promotes weight loss and improves sleep. Exercise also increases your body’s production of antibodies and T-cells that fight infection, improving your immune system and protecting you against illness. This has a bonus effect, as feeling resilient against disease can also help improve your mental wellbeing.

Ready to take your medicine? To ease into exercise, here are three gentler types you can do almost anytime, anywhere:

Cardiovascular and aerobic exercise for seniors

Walking is aerobic exercise with cardiovascular benefits—and one of the easiest exercises to perform. It doesn’t require a gym or any equipment; just put on comfortable footwear and go! It’s a great way to relieve stress, whether you are power walking or strolling at a steady pace and clearing your mind. The American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “prescribe” at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both. Brisk walking qualifies as moderate intensity activity, but any pace can be beneficial.

Tai chi for seniors

If you’ve ever passed a crowd of people standing in rows out on a lawn, all moving gently through a series of poses, you’ve seen tai chi. A traditional Chinese practice, tai chi is an exercise routine anyone can do: The movements are easy, slow, and repetitive, focusing on the form of each movement and breathing. Tai chi is known to benefit people who suffer from anxiety, stress and depression. It also regulates immune functions by increasing endorphin levels. For older adults wishing to undo years of work-related stress, tai chi can alleviate any energy blockages within the body, promoting a sense of inner peace and mindfulness.

Pilates for seniors

Pilates is a method of putting low impact and stress on the body to help improve postural alignment, core strength, and balance by relaxing overactive muscles and activate underactive ones. It’s a great way to release anxiety and stress to manage cortisol levels. Pilates helps promote strength, flexibility, posture, and weight loss. Similar to yoga, focusing on your breathing in Pilates helps improve the flow of oxygen to all of your body’s cells and removes wastes and toxins being trapped by insufficient blood supply.

As a bonus, Pilates also helps you manage stress by decreasing cortisol levels and increasing levels of endorphins and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and many other physiological processes, improving your mood naturally.

Ready, set …

Now that you know about this wonder drug, why not give exercise a try? Or, if you already exercise, try adding variety to your routine with something new. Research shows that mixing things up can help you stay with your exercise prescription longer. It’s good medicine. Take it—for life.

Ageility offers highly personalized fitness training by certified fitness professionals. Find out if there’s an Ageility clinic near you.

COVID-19 Rehabilitation Program

For over a year, COVID-19 has transformed all of our daily lives. But if you’ve suffered and recovered from COVID-19, the daily impact of the disease often goes deeper. The active virus may be gone, and yet you may not feel fully “better.” Weeks or months later, you may continue to experience fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, dry or persistent cough, muscle weakness, loss of sense of smell, or other lingering side effects that impact your daily routines.

At Ageility, our therapists determined the need for a COVID-19 rehab program for seniors early in the pandemic, when we checked on the older adults in our communities who had officially recovered from COVID-19. Usually, they still were weak. Some needed to stop halfway down the hall to catch their breath. Others relied on the hallway rails for added support as they walked or reported feeling weak just standing to do the dishes. Many reported a persistent “brain fog” or other lingering effects.

Determined to help patients find full recovery, our therapists developed a first-of-its-kind COVID-19 recovery therapy program that helps older adults regain strength and total-body wellness, so they can more actively engage in the activities they enjoyed before.

What is the COVID-19 Recovery Program?

The Ageility COVID-19 rehab program is designed to identify and address the residual effects of the coronavirus on seniors and the varied symptoms that remain.

What can you do if you are a senior recovering from COVID-19?

  • Catch weakness early, and reduce the risk of falls.
    If you are struggling to get up from a chair, or using furniture to help aid in movement, there’s a serious risk for a fall. Instead of taking a wait and see approach, COVID-19 rehab helps patients build core strength and prevent a loss of balance and its complications.
  • Be aware of what your body is telling you.
    Listen to your body and gain a better understanding of why certain activities that were a breeze before now leave you feeling drained and fatigued. If you are feeling tired while running to the grocery store, taking a shower or just getting yourself ready for the day, your body is telling you to slow down. What you were able to easily do before may now require a rest break, or you may need a nap in the middle of the day. Better body awareness helps you be mindful of what you’re feeling, so that your symptoms can be managed instead of ignored. You’ll learn how to look for symptoms, rather than push through your daily routine or avoid movement altogether. You’ll need to build up endurance slowly, but some movement can help restore you to strength. Just carefully monitor your activity tolerance as you slowly push yourself to improve.
  • Provide customized support.
    A custom set of solutions can make a big difference. For example, if one of your biggest symptoms is fatigue, COVID-19 rehab addresses which factors make your fatigue worse. With this in mind, you’ll try solutions that are specific to you. These may include strategies, like breathing exercises, strategies for rest breaks and added support in places where you need it. Sometimes these can be surprisingly simple. You might need to sit while getting dressed. Or you might try environmental adaptations. For example, in the bathroom, you might need a tub bench. Or you might need chairs on the elevator or in the hallway to take a rest. These small, but important, changes will make it possible for you to continue to move and gain strength, and lower your fatigue
  • Include all branches of therapy.
    COVID-19 rehab is similar to other types of rehab, such as therapy after hip replacement, in that you’ll need to rebuild endurance. But where COVID-19 rehab differs is that it needs to address not just localized physical issues, but every part and function of the body. COVID-19 creates a major whole-body inflammatory response. Because it involves many different organ systems in your body, COVID-19 rehab requires a larger team of therapists – physical, occupational and speech therapists with specialized expertise. These specialists working as a team give you the best chance for a full recovery
  • Find the root cause of symptoms.
    There are over 100 symptoms that you might experience after COVID-19, including tremors, rashes, hallucinations and ringing in the ears. Instead of addressing just the symptoms, COVID-19 rehab looks deeper, such as checking how the heart and lungs are functioning, too. COVID-19 therapy determines the root cause of symptoms, using a global assessment and a comprehensive approach.
  • Assess cognitive skills including memory and thinking, as well as focusing and concentration abilities.
    One of the most common problems during recovery is brain fog. Everyone experiences it differently, so it’s important to have an evaluation to better identify the specific cognitive challenges you may be having. It’s important to figure out whether your mood is affected, or whether you’re having a tough time with organizing your thoughts. Sometimes, the symptoms may even come and go.
  • Measure progress.
    It’s important to look at changes in your symptoms over time. During your first COVID-19 rehab consult, therapists ask clear questions on how you’re feeling now compared to before. Questionnaires are done face to face, so you’re listened to and supported. Ageility therapists also do a cognitive screen, which can help clarify your recovery needs further. Because the assessments look at the full range of abilities affected by COVID-19, they can pick up on subtle differences that are hard to discover without an evaluation. COVID-19 rehab also includes a series of functional assessments, which tell therapists what you’re able to do and how you feel after a certain amount of activity. Quantifying the impact of COVID-19 helps therapists track your progress and find out exactly what you need.

How can I find COVID-19 rehab services?

If you or someone you love are still struggling even after COVID-19 recovery – if you’re still not back to your old self, or feeling limited it what you can do – contact Ageility at [email protected] to learn how we can help or search for an Ageility location near you.

Stay on Your Feet: 12 Tips for How to Prevent Falls in Seniors

Your body is an amazing machine that’s helped you to physically experience and enjoy your life. Thanks to it, you’ve traveled, danced and maybe even run a marathon. You’ve also worked hard, perhaps raised a family and achieved your dreams. But as you age, your body naturally gets tired and loses some of its strength.

Unfortunately, loss of strength can result in reduced coordination, balance and physical stamina and can lead to falls as you get older. A fall could result in serious injury – or to an earlier death. Plus, older adults who have fallen once are more likely to do so again. The risk is understandably concerning. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to significantly reduce your chance of falling – allowing you to maintain your independence, mobility and good health.

Without further ado, here are tips to keep you steady on your feet and active, courtesy of Ageility’s Fall Prevention Program specialists. For best results, partner with your family and friends to implement these strategies.

12 Tips to Help Seniors Avoid Falling

  1. Clear the path.
    Many falls occur due to tripping over something. So, pick up clutter, tuck cords out of the way and get rid of throw rugs. Then you can be confident that your path is free of tripping hazards.
  2. Light the way.
    It’s easy to stumble in the dark. To avoid falling at night (and stubbing your toe!), plug in night lights to illuminate your path. Make sure you have a well-lit route to the bathroom – and exits in case of emergency.
  3. Check your seats.
    Believe it or not, you can fall while trying to sit down. To prevent that from happening, make sure your toilet and chairs are high enough where you can slide onto them – not drop onto them. Plus, avoid chairs with wheels as they can roll out from underneath you.
  4. Shower safely.
    The bathtub can get very slippery. To stay steady on your feet, securely install easy-to-reach grab bars and use them when you’re climbing in and out of the shower. Then, place a non-slip bathmath just outside of the tub.
  5. Climb stairs confidently.
    If you’re a little unsteady, stairs can be a major fall hazard. But, if you install – and grab onto – secure railings, you can climb that flight confidently. Don’t forget to take your time – there’s no need to rush!
  6. Ditch that dizziness.
    Feeling dizzy throws off your balance and could lead to a fall. If you feel dizzy when standing, wait a moment for it to pass before moving. Be sure to talk to your doctor as some of your medication may cause dizziness. Plus, try to stay well-hydrated – especially if you’re outside in the heat.
  7. Get moving.
    Your chances of falling decrease if you maintain your physical strength. That means you need to get – and stay – moving. Gentle exercise, such as walking or lifting light weights regularly, should do the trick. If exercise isn’t something you normally enjoy, put on your favorite music or ask a friend to join you.
  8. Traverse the terrain.
    Soft or uneven terrain may cause you to be unsteady on your feet. To navigate it safely, take your time and walk carefully. If you need assistance, don’t feel embarrassed to ask for someone’s arm for extra support.
  9. Keep essential things handy.
    If you rush across the room to answer a ringing phone or answer a knock at the door, you could trip and fall. To stop this from happening, keep the phone on you or near you at all times. Also, if you use a walker or cane, make sure it’s always within reach. That way, you never have to take a step without it.
  10. Track your habits.
    Getting up quickly to use the bathroom could cause you to get dizzy or fall. To avoid the potentially dangerous scramble, track your habits. If you always go to the bathroom at the same times every day, you can plan ahead – and get moving before the need becomes urgent.
  11. Keep those ankles limber.
    Ankle flexibility and strength are key to preventing falls. When you’re sitting in your chair, move your ankles in circles. Then, pump your feet up and down. The best part? You can do these basic exercises while watching your favorite television programs.
  12. Beef up those leg muscles.
    Strong legs mean better balance which means fewer falls. To beef up those leg muscles, sit on a comfortable chair, scoot up to the edge, and slowly stand up. Hold the position for a moment, and then slowly ease back onto the chair. Repeat the process five times. Try to avoid using your hands unless you need to use them for support.

Another concern: If your knees buckle, you could fall. To lessen your chance of that happening, incorporate standing knee bends into your exercise routine. Start by standing in front of a table, with both hands placed on the edge. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Then, squat halfway, bending your knees. Your knees should go directly over your toes. When your heel starts to lift, straighten your legs. Repeat the exercise five times.

Bonus tip: Enlist family support.

Your family and friends can be a great support system. They want you to avoid falls just as much as you do. To make sure they’re on the same page as you, be sure to communicate your needs. Ask them to give you more time to answer the door when they visit. Tell them not to rush when you’re out together. They’ll understand and be grateful for the reminders.

Are you worried about you or a loved one falling? Contact Ageility at [email protected] to see how we can help!

Muscle Your Memory: 12 Tips to Stay Mentally Sharp

Your brain is a remarkable thinking and memory machine. As the writer Bill Bryson noted in his bestselling book, The Body, “Just sitting quietly, doing nothing at all, your brain churns through more information in thirty seconds than the Hubble Space Telescope has processed in thirty years.” (49) No wonder that over the years it can gradually become harder to remember things or think as sharply as you once did.

However, for patients with cognitive impairment, such as that caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the decline is much more pronounced. Patients with dementia experience struggles with memory loss, communication, feelings of isolation, or lack of interest in activities they once loved. But here’s the good news: We humans are resilient, and throughout every stage of dementia, people with dementia hold onto their innate drive to be successful.

With this in mind, here are a dozen tried-and-true brain-sharpening strategies to fuel that drive, handpicked by the dementia experts at Ageility. Try them yourself or with someone you love.

12 tips for staying mentally sharp

  1. Sing a song. Learn new songs and challenge yourself with old favorites that you haven’t heard in years. After singing or humming to yourself, look up the lyrics online to see how many words you remembered.
  2. Write it down. Birthdays, medical appointments, passwords … writing things down, either on paper or using a digital app, helps to remember them when you don’t have your notes in front of you.
  3. Play The Categories Game. Choose a category—such as fruits, birds or cars—and see how many you can name in 2 minutes. Pick a new category each day. Don’t keep the fun to yourself—challenge a friend or loved one to a duel!
  4. Name that … name. When greeting someone new, try not to let your mind wander. Hint: Using their name a few times during your first greeting helps. Note an interesting feature that person has, such as thick, curly hair and think, “Jane has thick, curly hair.” Later, see if you can recall the name along with something interesting you learned about the person.
  5. Nail down numbers. Build up your ability to memorize a progressive series of numbers or items. For phone numbers, for instance, memorize four, then seven, then all ten digits.
  6. “File under ….” To remember lists, try categorizing items. For example, list household tasks under “Bills,” “Cleaning” and “Maintenance.” Or visually map items—memorize a grocery list by aisle location, for instance. Test yourself: Only pull out your written grocery list to double check before checkout.
  7. Keep learning. Learning never stops! Explore new areas of interest, such as history, art (museums are great for this) or biography. Visit the library—find a new book on a subject you’ve always wanted to dig into. Keep a “new learning bucket list” of topics and tackle them one at a time.
  8. Team up with your body. Pair a physical challenge with a mental challenge. For instance, can you stand on one leg for 15 seconds? Now do that while saying the alphabet backwards. Advantage: Physical activity pumps oxygen to your brain.
  9. Practice eye-hand coordination. Play catch, bounce a ball (try juggling for a special challenge!), or enlist a friend to play Frisbee, bocce ball, corn hole, ping pong or pickleball. All get your eyes and hands working together.
  10. Stop and smell the roses. Let nature stimulate your brain by taking a walk and enjoying new scenery. Mind all of your senses and note things you haven’t focused on before, such as bird calls, cloud shapes, the smell of wildflowers or the feel of a gentle breeze.
  11. Pick a new passion. Learn a new talent or take up a new hobby, such as a musical instrument, foreign language, knitting, origami, or a new cooking technique or cuisine. Check out classes online or books and DVD courses from your local library.
  12. Practice problem solving. Many people love puzzles and there’s something for every age, even grandkids. Good choices: jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, chess, checkers, Yahtzee and card games. Have a non-puzzle problem to solve? Brainstorm solutions with a friend—write them down and compare lists. Did they have some you didn’t consider?

Bonus tip: Get 40 winks—at least. Last but arguably the most important tip to staying sharp is to get restful sleep. How well you sleep affects your thinking the following day, including problem solving, judgment and response times. Continued lack of sleep is linked to chronic diseases and dementias. On the plus side, sleep helps your brain learn and reenergize.

Are you or someone you love struggling with memory, and interested to learn how our therapists and trainers can help? Contact Ageility at [email protected] to learn about our memory programs.

Meet Denise Kelly, Founder of Ageility

Her occupation? Making people whole.

Most people begin their careers in their early twenties. Denise Kelly began her career in occupational therapy a tad earlier. She was eight.

“There was a girl in our neighborhood with cerebral palsy,” says Denise, founder of Ageility, a national network of outpatient rehabilitation and fitness clinics. “Her name was Gail. I and some of my other siblings volunteered to help her parents care for her. We worked with Gail doing what at the time were pretty innovative therapy techniques called ‘patterning.’ That early experience inspired two of my siblings to become physical therapists, and because I wanted to be different, I became an occupational therapist.”

That early exposure to innovation and compassion, along with a competitive spirit, inspired Denise to go into occupational therapy, a form of therapy that helps people regain the ability to do normal activities. It also inspired her to start her own business to provide something that didn’t yet exist: therapy with a whole-person approach. That business is Ageility, which opened its first outpatient clinic in 2005.

A Passion for Wellness and Wholeness

“I always had a passion for the wellness side of things, helping people help themselves in getting better,” says Denise. “It’s not a passive job; it’s an active job.” The Ageility approach to wellness, Denise explains, emphasizes creative problem-solving. “If you can’t move from the waist down, how do you put your pants on? If you can’t lift one arm, how do you do the dishes?”

But Ageility isn’t just about helping people regain the ability to enjoy the little moments that make up much of their lives. There is a fitness aspect as well.

“Retirement doesn’t have to mean sitting on the couch all day, and we know that’s not what people want,” Denise says. “Older people want to be productive. They want to be as fit as they can be.” A great example of this, she notes, are the National Senior Games, for which Ageility is an association partner. “The Senior Games are the most motivating thing I’ve ever seen,” Denise says. “The games are very competitive, including pickleball, a paddleball sport that combines badminton, table tennis, and tennis. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country in the active older adult arena. I play it myself!”

Denise explains that its fitness component is part of what makes the Ageility approach unique. Ageility offers the full gamut of rehabilitative services — physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech language pathology and speech therapy — but also fitness services to address the older person’s other goals, which may include not just getting better but living better. Not just reacting to the pressing need but proactively preventing injury or reinjury. It’s an approach that helps clients live more fully, because when the body reaches a higher level of ability and agility, the mind and spirit are lifted as well. “The traditional occupational therapy model was to tell the patient, ‘Do this,'” says Denise. “But we recognized that many people are motivated to take care of themselves and to be as well as possible.”

And so, although different therapies do wonders for the patient recovering from an injury or event, such as a stroke, “there is also the person who says, ‘My knee hurts and I want to get better so I can play tennis again,” Denise says. The Ageility approach to include the possibility of post-rehab fitness helps residents stretch what they thought possible and strive to achieve their personal best.

“What also makes Ageility different is that we have a hospitality background,” Denise says. That hospitality, concierge-like focus creates at least two benefits, she notes. First, Ageility clinics are located within senior living communities, allowing flexible scheduling and daily availability for residents versus visiting therapists whose time and schedules may be limited. Second, Ageility clinics make available larger and more sophisticated equipment such as recumbent bikes and electronic balance platforms that visiting therapists can’t bring with them.

Setting a New Course: One Client’s Story

Denise recalls one resident, a man in his seventies who loved golf but had had a stroke that prevented him from getting back out on the links. “He had gone through an inpatient rehabilitation stay where they worked on certain goals, and they were good, but they didn’t focus on some goals that were important to him. He wanted to get back out on that golf course.”

Following inpatient therapy, the man returned to his senior living apartment but without golf, his social life had dried up. “He had been very gregarious, the life of the party,” Denise recalls. “So that was tough.”

Once the man entered outpatient care with Ageility, however, things changed for the better. “Because the damage from his stroke prevented him from playing a full game of golf, we created an abbreviated golf game for him,” Denise said. “We had a putting green in our facility, so we started him on the putting green and went from there. He was able to reconnect with what he loved.”

Older = Still Growing

When asked what she loves most about Ageility’s clients, Denise doesn’t hesitate. “Older people don’t see themselves as ‘old,'” she notes. “They’re still growing. They’re continuing on their journey. That’s why I love our motto: ‘Your potential is our passion.”

Denise’s own journey took her from her early neighborhood volunteering to Boston University, where she earned her BS in occupational therapy, and then to Lesley University, where she earned her master’s in healthcare management. She later founded Ageility and today serves as senior vice president, overseeing 208 outpatient clinics and 27 inpatient clinics in 28 states.

And what about Gail, the young woman with cerebral palsy who inspired Denise to become a therapist all those years ago? “She grew up to have a good life,” Denise says. “She married and had children. She inspired my sister and brother and me at a young age to go into this field. I think that’s kind of cool.”
Ageility is reinventing rehab for older adults with a whole-person approach to wellness. Are you or a loved one looking to reach your personal best? Visit us to learn more about our programs and services.

Physical therapy for seniors? It’s like magic. Meet Erica Leiva.

After he had a bad fall last October, Morty was in pretty tough shape. And, at the venerable but advanced age of 101, he wasn’t supposed to get back to the pretty good shape he’d been in.

But Morty’s story has a happy ending. Today, this popular resident of a senior living community in Florida has fully recovered from that fall. Not only that, but Morty has also tossed aside his walker and, as he likes to put it, “fired” his two physical therapy (home health) aides. A man old enough to have seen Harry Houdini perform live is back to his old tricks.

“That’s what I love about what I do,” says Erica Leiva, a rehabilitation director for Ageility, a national network of outpatient rehabilitation clinics and fitness studios. A physical therapist herself, Erica worked with Morty, and she found his perseverance inspiring. “The residents we serve are so motivated to stay active,” she says. “They motivate me, too.”

Seeing older people as special

A native of Queens, New York, Erica grew up wanting to be a doctor. She recalls enjoying the company of older people when, as a girl, she visited neighborhood nursing homes. But when she entered a premed program in college, her plan was to become a pediatrician and care for young people. Then something changed.

“When I started studying sports injuries and sports medicine, I got hooked on physical therapy, the whole act of recovery” Erica says. After considering pediatric physical therapy, “I decided to go into geriatrics instead. I turned completely around,” she laughs.

She loves older people, Erica says by way of explanation. “They have wisdom. They’ve lived long lives, and they know who they are. Some may feel old because of physical pain, but whether they do or whether they feel fit, they still want to dance, they still feel young in their souls.”

The “magic” of outpatient therapy for seniors

People who have lived long and want to continue living fully have unique needs, and those needs can be uniquely met in an outpatient setting, Erica explains. That outpatient setting is a key to the Ageility approach.

“Ageility really understands the importance of outpatient therapy in our residents’ lives,” Erica says. “To me, outpatient therapy is the future of rehabilitation medicine. That’s where all the fine-tuning and the magic happens.”

Inpatient physical therapy is critical, Erica notes, but it is only part of the picture—the recovery piece. Residents of today’s senior living communities want much more—going beyond recovering from any injury or illness to continue discovering all their lives have to offer. Ageility meets that need.

“Many of us trained in geriatrics were told that older people couldn’t improve, that the goal was just to maintain them,” Erica explains. “Ageility helped me see—and brought out in me that hope—that a senior can improve at any age. Even 101! They want that and they should have it, and we’re committed to working with our residents to make it happen.”

The state of the art of therapy

Ageility offers a wide variety of programs across the full range of rehabilitative services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech language pathology and speech therapy. According to Erica, what makes these programs and services unique to Ageility is a focus not only on desired outcomes—what a client wants to attain—but how to achieve them.

“The state of the art in physical therapy is an evidence-based approach,” she explains. “That’s the up-and-coming role we should play in our everyday practice, and that’s what’s best for the residents.” Evidence-based means studying research into which physical therapy techniques achieve those desired outcomes and applying those techniques to everyday practice. “Our continuing education for staff includes training using these newer evidence-based techniques,” Erica adds.

Ageility utilizes the newest technologies as well as techniques (evidence based practice). A specialist in physical therapy for treating Parkinson’s, a degenerative neurological disease, Erica notes that balance is an issue for these clients. Part of therapy involves using a newer technology that is essentially a computerized balance beam platform. “It’s very precise and it saves data, so you can show the person how they’re progressing with their balance and their postural alignment,” she says.

But Ageility is not only high-tech but high-touch. Its clinics, which are located within senior living communities, feature not only state-of-the-art equipment but also the comfort of being close to home. And for all the sophisticated equipment, Erica notes that the best technology in physical therapy remains the highly educated, well-trained, experienced therapist. “Ageility attracts therapists who are passionate about helping older people and specialize in the practices that help them most,” she says.

Amazing work—and amazing results

Ageility offers the full gamut of rehabilitative services—physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech language pathology and speech therapy—but it combines these services with a client’s other goals which may include not just getting better but living better. That, Erica, explains, is what makes Ageility unique. “We love to give them hope,” she says. “We love to help our clients enjoy a better quality of life. We love to see the difference we get to make in people’s lives.”

The love goes both ways. “Every day, we’re given a gift,” Erica says, recalling Morty’s story and how he’s inspired her and her colleagues. “We get to contribute to the betterment of people’s lives and the betterment of the community as a whole. And our clients thank us. I don’t know of too many jobs where you get thanked every day and people let you know you’ve made a difference. That’s really special. That’s amazing. It really is.”

Ageility is reinventing rehab for older adults with a whole-person approach to wellness. Are you or a loved one looking to reach your personal best? Find out if there’s an Ageility location near you!

Let’s Play Pickle Ball!

Let’s play ball! Pickle ball, that is. Pickle ball is the fastest growing sport in America. With minimal learning time and coaching needed, pickle ball can be picked up in no time. You can go from being inexperienced to playing a competitive game with your friends in a matter of minutes. Pickle ball is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. With a court 20 ft by 44 ft court (a scaled down version of a tennis court) and with a low net, pickle ball is easier on the joints and body. There are two side lines, two baselines and two non-volley lines which create two non-volley zones known as the kitchen. The center line divides the service courts, and every point begins with an underhand serve behind the base line across the court into the opposite opponent’s service court and not in the kitchen. Once the ball is serviced the double bounce rule goes in to effect-this means the ball must bounce once on each side before either team can volley the ball in the air. Then each team may begin to volley the ball back and forth with one bounce or no bounce

Benefits of Pickle Ball

Pickle ball is less taxing than tennis; however, it is still enough of an aerobic workout that it improves cardiovascular health and fitness when played three times a week for one hour. This can help improve blood pressure and cardiovascular endurance. Pickle ball can help prevent and manage diabetes by improving the production of insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

Pickle ball is a great way to burn calories and get the body moving without feeling like you are spending hours on a treadmill. Instead, you are playing a fun, competitive game with friends! Pickle ball is an excellent way to improve your strength, balance, and agility with the variety of foot work, weight shifting, and potential single leg stance required to maneuver around the court. The fast pace of the game (like ping-pong) is a great way to improve hand eye coordination, which keeps the mind sharp. Overhead serves are not allowed in pickle ball, which is good for individuals with shoulder complications.

Apart from the physical aspect, pickle ball can improve mood and mental health by warding off depression. Increasing heart rate with moderate exercise can release feel-good endorphins to help ease our minds. Pickle ball is played on a small court increasing the social interaction with friends, family, and teammates!

Check with an Ageility physical therapist or personal trainer near you to do an overall assessment to make sure you have proper form before starting Pickle ball. Look up the nearest pickle ball signup near you in your community! Get out there, get healthy and get living!

Find an Ageility clinic near you.