Exercise the key—at any age

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September 8, 2016 12:00 AM

PIONEER LODGE resident support worker Elizabeth Horon helps resident Harry Green feel the burn as part of the lodge's exercise program that began last November.

When the Pioneer Lodge hired its new resident support worker last year, it not only took on a new staff member, but ended up breathing new life into the entire facility.
Elizabeth Horon began her job at the lodge last November and immediately saw a big need for exercise in the facility; so she asked her boss if she could start a program and slowly, but surely, began improving the health of all the residents.
“I looked at some of the residents and they were just barely getting around,” said Horon.
“So I started group exercise first, we do them in chairs and hang onto the railing for stability, doing the balance and strength exercise, which for the seniors was a little bit (of work raising their legs) and now we’ve gone way beyond that.”
Not only are the seniors raising their legs higher and improving their balance, Horon now has them walking miles at a time everyday and some are even straight up pumping iron.
The exercise program started off light, using just the minimal equipment that was already at the lodge, until Horon asked for more pieces, and now the workout room boasts two recumbent bikes, a standup bike and a whole body vibrator that shakes the user’s body to move circulation and loosen up joints.
The popularity seems to grow as the program expands, and now on any given day the workout room is full, often times with a lineup of seniors waiting to get in.
“When I started, shortly after, I had lots of things of organize because this was a brand new position, so I had to sort of figure out, what are we doing? Where are we going? So this was part it,” said Horon.
“Now we aim for everyday for all of them and in every news letter I try to put a blurb in about the importance of exercise.”
The physical health and strength benefits of the program are obvious, but many families of residents are saying walking into Pioneer Lodge is like night and day, with the moods of many seniors substantially improved.
Horon points to the fact that exercise circulates the blood better, carrying more oxygen to the brain, which in turn improves the frame of mind.
This is especially important for seniors living away from family, because the isolation can lead to depression, and the exercise not only makes them feel healthier, but adds a social element to life at the lodge as well.
“Emotional (improvement) is a really big part of it because some of them, if they don’t have a lot of family visiting or whatever, they can get really depressed, so when they come to the exercise room I like to have it full,” said Horon.
“They talk to one another, as where they often don’t talk to each other outside of the exercise room, and now people who come to visit, they’re like ‘Oh my god, Pioneer Lodge isn’t even the same place anymore; residents are emotionally much healthier.’”
Outside of the workout room, Horon also started a walking club where she logs the amount of miles and calculates how far the residents walk, and then rewards them for each milestone.
One stroll around the lodge, going by every room once, equals a quarter mile, said Horon.
She added she’d come up with targets, walking the equivalent distance from Lloydminster to Vermilion, then bring in coffee and donuts to have a little celebration.
After reaching Edmonton in terms of miles walked, Horon brought the seniors out to Dairy Queen as another incentive.
“Now within another week, we’ll have reached Vancouver, so I’m not sure what we’ll do for them then,” she laughed.

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