Faculty, staff and students work together to support active lifestyles for older adults
Getting older presents different challenges than those faced at earlier stages of life, but exercise, good nutrition, regular health screenings and social interaction all help promote healthy aging.
Health challenges can begin as early as 50 years old—even if they are not immediately discernible—and the Wellness Center looks for ways to augment this through fitness.
Fitness and research.
Towson University College of Health Professions professor Nick Knuth is starting his third year of the Longitudinal Aging Study at Towson (LAST), housed at the Wellness Center. Begun in the spring of 2014, the study aims to look at the role that physical activity has on the aging trajectory in terms of functional outcomes like gait speed, grip strength and balance.
Once a year, participants come in, have blood drawn, fill out a questionnaire, and then complete a number of baseline measurements like resting metabolic rate, vascular blood flow, and body composition. They then complete a walking economy test and are fitted with an accelerometer on their wrist that they will wear for the next week in order to measure their free-living physical activity level. After that week, participants return to the Wellness Center to complete a series of fitness and function tests.
Bill and Diane Carroll, Wellness Center clients and LAST study participants, have noticed positive effects in their lives since joining the study.
“I think definitely that the exercises here have helped slow the issues that come with aging,” said Diane.
Bill began coming to the center back in the late 1990s after a cardiac event. Diane joined him shortly after.
“I said to Diane, ‘This is a very friendly place, and you could use some exercise, so why don’t you come with me?’” he recalls with a chuckle.
He is in his early 80s and still gardens and does work around the house for their three daughters, including replacing railings and pressure treating one daughter’s deck in Virginia. He and Diane also keep up with their seven grandchildren.
Both have worked with a group of kinesiology students who break into teams to do assessments and come up with an exercise plan. The students are part of KNES 406: Prescriptions and Programming for Special Populations, taught by Jennifer Moxley.
The Carrolls also enjoy the social aspect of the Wellness Center. Several times during their interview, friends interrupted to tease and joke with them.
“There’s a group of about six of us who go to Panera after we leave here,” said Bill. “[Diane and I] split a bagel and have a cup of coffee, socialize and then go home. We do it Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
Wellness Center board member and Towson University alumna Bunny Renaud ’84 (nursing) runs College Manor, an assisted living facility in Lutherville, Maryland, and sends several of her clients to the center. While they are younger than the Carrolls, Renaud says they have found similar benefits.
Renaud pointed to the social opportunities as well as the nutrition classes and classes on how to get up from a fall as just some of the benefits to her residents.
“I knew it was a great opportunity,” she said. “There is no ‘gym-timidation’ there. We offer several classes for our clients, but the Wellness Center offers many others we don’t. Our clients who go to the center feel good about taking control of their own health.
“The Wellness Center has fabulous equipment and is extremely affordable, especially for those on a fixed income,” Renaud continued. “The trainers are very solicitous and provide good supervision during workouts.”