No Room For Spectators: Continuing Care Communities

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MD CCRC residents enjoying retirementExercise regularly; seek intellectual challenges; nourish your friendships. While following them may be difficult, everyone knows these simple rules for maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle. The good thing about these rules? They never change. Physical, mental, and social stimulation remain important throughout life.

You need not be an aspiring Iron Man Contestant, an astrophysicist, or a social butterfly to continue to find new and exciting pursuits as you age. Physical and mental activities can be tailored to specific ability levels and interests, and social interactions are available in every community. Finding the activity that is right for you could be as simple as a trip to the local senior center, gym, golf course, tennis court, swimming pool, or -maybe-retirement community.

The Residents and staff at one local retirement community are revising their approach to physical and mental well-being. By moving beyond the expected “Sittercise” classes and lecture series, Roland Park Place, a continuing care retirement community in Baltimore, MD, is reinventing the wheel-the Wheel of Wellness. Wellness can be generally defined as behaviors that enhance and prolong the state of total body and mind health. At Roland Park Place, they have embraced this idea and incorporated it into their daily operations through the Wheel of Wellness program.

The Wheel of Wellness is a six-prong program that addresses every facet of resident health and well-being, including: Physical Wellness, Spiritual Wellness, Intellectual Wellness, Vocational Wellness, Social Wellness, and Emotional Wellness. Roland Park Place has demonstrated their commitment to this program by upgrading their facilities, enlisting highly-qualified staff members, and delivering targeted activity and fitness programming.

Among the amenities offered at the community are a state-of-the-art fitness center; an indoor heated pool and spa; a putting green; a billiards room; and various intellectual activities, such as adult education classes taught by professors from Johns Hopkins University, book clubs, foreign language conversation groups, current event discussion groups, and art and music courses. Making a healthy lifestyle their primary focus has drawn healthy, active residents to the community-residents who keep the wheel rolling. Here are a few of the players:

Mardie Robinson may tell you that she is an average golf putter, but fellow residents are quick to point out her impressive talents on the green. When she quit playing golf, she never gave up her putter, which she uses daily on the community putting green. “I’ve always been active,” she says. That made Roland Park Place the perfect choice. Mardie points out, “It would have been easy to move to a retirement community and just give up exercising, but I’ve never been that kind of person. They have so many activities here that it’s easy to stay involved.”

“I spent my young life looking at Jesse Owens’ back,” remembers Adrian Rich, who lettered in football, basketball, and track in high school and was the MD Interscholastic Champion in the 100-yard dash. He never caught Jesse, but he never stopped trying; he continues to challenge himself every day. He points out, “If someone says they are bored here, I say that’s their fault. You can’t be bored here! Look around, there’s so much to do.” For Adrian, that includes working out in the fitness center and using the putting green.

A self-described “city person,” Norvell Miller knew he wanted to remain close to Baltimore, which led him to Roland Park Place. He explains, “This is the only community my wife and I considered that would allow us to walk to shopping areas and be close to everything.” That convenience is important for someone who prefers to spend most of his time on the tennis court.

Pete Bernheim’s tennis partners are “mostly younger.” He plays year-round; he and his junior competitors frequent several of the nearby courts. Being close to the courts immediately drew Mr. Bernheim to Roland Park Place, but he also liked the fact that everything is under one roof. “Other communities we looked at were so spread out, and that just isn’t convenient,” he points out.

Playing tennis, golf, and weight training in the fitness center are all a part of Dr. Jack Zimmerman’s full schedule. He and his wife moved to Roland Park Place two years ago. “We don’t have to worry about home maintenance, repair, or general upkeep anymore, which gives us more time for traveling and doing all the things we enjoy,” he notes. In addition to his fitness regime, Dr. Zimmerman, a retired surgeon, helps pre-med students at Hopkins prepare for medical school and works with the State Medical Society on the Ethics Committee.

“The fitness classes here are so good; they advance really quickly,” Frances Mueller points out. She should know. She made her first foray into exercise classes after moving to the community and really noticed an improvement in her fitness level. Unfortunately, a wrist injury forced her to stop taking classes several months ago. When she returned, she was amazed by how far the class had advanced. “I’m going to get back into it though,” says Ms. Mueller. Even during her break from fitness classes, she kept busy as the Assistant Editor of the community magazine and co-chairperson of the Knitting for the Homeless Program. She also tutors a 39-year-old illiterate man who is determined to learn to read.

As the head of a group of retired executives, Bob Bonnell helped institute a program in Baltimore that focuses on improving high school graduation rates. Mr. Bonnell proudly points out, “We started in 1986 with 55 kids, and we now serve 700 kids. The graduation rate has gone from 25% to 73%.” If he is not working, Mr. Bonnell is on the golf course. “I hit 90,000 practice shots a year. I’m out on the golf course every day I can be,” he says. Not surprisingly, he really enjoys the “excellent putting green” that is mere seconds from his front door.

Betsy Hughes and her husband moved to Roland Park Place last year from a large Victorian house in the neighborhood. “The house became a little too much work for us.” She smiles as she continues, “We agreed that we would take all of our good memories with us and leave the gutters for someone else to clean.” Ms. Hughes still works full-time as the Vice President of their family-owned business, but the couple and their popular Gordon setter have quickly become a part of their new community. Ms. Hughes is on the Resident’s Council, the Decorating Committee, and the Marketing Advisory Group. Her primary diversion is still tennis though. “That’s my game,” she says.

“My long range goal is to keep the mind and the body active and sharp,” says Brad Bradford, who is well on his way to achieving that lofty goal. He plays tennis two or three times a week and, with some coaching from his son, has recently started playing golf again. Mr. Bradford also fits in a water aerobics class a few times a week. “I’d certainly never considered doing water aerobics before moving here, but it’s great. It’s easy on your joints, and you feel so good afterwards,” he says. He and his wife have been very pleased since their recent move and feel that their foresight will be a tremendous gift to their children.

These nine dynamic individuals are all examples of the importance of maintaining both a fitness routine and a full social calendar. Healthy aging means working all your muscles. A close circle of friends, challenging intellectual activities, and a solid back swing or a perfect put are all equally important aspects of total well-being. Remaining active-in every sense of the word-is the first step to a fulfilling retirement. For the players at Roland Park Place and other active seniors, retirement life has no room for spectators.

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