PARC resident Richard is stronger and more active than most 92-years-olds – and some 65-year-olds, for that matter. The spirited and active senior has been living at Cedar Springs PARC, our nature-surrounded North Vancouver residence, since 2014.
He credits the community, and PARC Fit programming, for keeping him mobile and thriving. “I’ve been most grateful to be here,” he says. “I’ve learned that PARC has all the ingredients of successful aging: a good diet, socialization, provision for mental fitness and physical fitness . . . those have all worked well for me.” PARC Fit Balance Classes are a vital piece of this puzzle, too, helping Richard remain self-reliant and injury-free.
The Effects of Balance on Healthy Aging
Balance is at the top of our minds right now, with National Fall Prevention Month in November. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors, and approximately 20 to 30 per cent of older adults take a fall each year. A fall can also have a lasting impact on a person, resulting in chronic pain, a reduced quality of life, and loss of confidence.
Toward Balance: Richard’s Inspiring PARC Journey
Richard’s experience with PARC Retirement Living and PARC Fit began in September 2014, when he first moved into Cedar Springs PARC. He had lived an accomplished life to that point, growing up on a farm in North Dakota, serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve during the Korean War and earning undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees. In the mid-1960s, he transferred to the University of Manitoba, where he retired as Professor Emeritus in 1998, later moving to Vancouver.
When his first wife passed away in 2013, Richard made the decision to move in: “I was here visiting my son, who is a family physician here in North Vancouver, in Lynn Valley,” he recalls. He toured the residence and knew immediately it was the place for him.
From the day Richard arrived at PARC, he began visiting his community’s fitness centre every morning to exercise. Later, he started going for walks outside each day, encouraged by his new companion Marlene, whom he met and married at Cedar Springs PARC in 2016.
When Richard started noticing problems with his balance, he signed up for PARC Fit Balance classes – twice per week – and never looked back. These low-impact gentle exercise classes are designed to increase flexibility, range of motion, balance, posture, and core stability. Benefits include increased blood flow and range of motion, along with reduced stress, muscle stiffness and fall risk.
“The most important thing I learned was how to walk properly,” says Richard. “As you get old, you tend to lean over.” But Cedar Springs Active Living Manager Moira Cohn coached him to walk standing up straight. “It made big difference because, by that time, I was using a cane or a walker quite a bit, to go for my walks, because I didn’t feel stable enough,” says Richard. “Once I was walking properly, standing up straight, and swinging my arms, I could walk quite a way without those aids.”
Richard’s daughter encouraged him, too: “She kept saying, ‘Dad, stand up straight.’ So, every time I slump now, I hear a voice in my head saying that. That has made a big difference in my life.”
PARC Fit Classes to Suit Every Ability
The PARC Fit program offers a variety of fitness classes for all levels of ability, whether the resident is fully mobile, or using a cane or a walker. From chair yoga and pole walking to weight and circuit training, our classes are creative and tailored to aging adults, with balance and overall well-being in mind:
- PARC Balance: A low-impact gentle exercise class that increases flexibility and improves participants’ range of motion, balance, posture and core stability. The benefits include increased blood flow, reduced stress, decreased muscle stiffness and improved range of motion – along with reduced fall risk.
- PARC HeartFit/Circuit: A circuit-based workout that takes participants through a series of stations designed to get their bodies moving: cardio, resistance training, core work and balance exercises. This effective workout style improves heart health, increases muscle strength, and challenges balance and agility
- PARC Strength: A full-body resistance-based workout that develops and works all of the major muscle groups. Designed to increase overall strength, endurance and functional ability, this type of weight training also leads to improved bone density, slowing of age-related muscle loss, and a reduction in osteoarthritis risk.
- PARC Move: A fitness class designed to provide a full body workout, incorporating exercises and fun games to increase balance and agility.
- PARC Fitness: A fitness class incorporating weights, joint mobility, stretches, and stand-up and seated exercises for a full-body experience.
Moving into the Future with PARC
Today, Richard is thriving and committed to continuing with his fitness routine. Though officially retired, he also remains an active academic; for instance, he is currently assisting a younger colleague with translating book from Portuguese to English.
Does he have any advice for fellow seniors or PARC residents? Yes, indeed – especially the men. “The percentage of men participating in the gym here or in any of the physical fitness classes is much lower than women. I just came from a balance class where I was the only man. That is often the case,” he says. He encourages men to get involved and participate more in PARC Fit classes, for the immense benefits in maintaining balance, overall health, and well-being.
As we mark Fall Prevention Month, Richard’s story is an inspiring reminder of the essential role that balance, mobility, and community play in the lives of older adults – and how PARC Fit programs help residents like Richard lead rich and fulfilling lives.