The Tucson J Expands Healthy Aging Programs with New Offerings Focused on Cognitive, Physical, and Social Needs

The Tucson J Expands Healthy Aging Programs with New Offerings Focused on Cognitive, Physical, and Social Needs
Personal Trainer Rhina Gerhauser assists long-time Healthy Aging program participant, Shirley Katz, with exercises that make up the physical training portion of Movement/Arts Immersion.

Under the leadership of Amy Dowe, Sr. Director of Wellness and Linda Travis, PsyD, Aging Adult Program Specialist, the Tucson J’s Healthy Aging suite of programs is growing to meet the diverse needs of older adults in Tucson and Pima County.

With one in five people over 65 years of age in Southern Arizona, the J recognizes the importance of serving this population with programming that not only addresses physical health, but cognitive and social health, too.

There are now six Healthy Aging Programs at the J including: the Parkinson’s Exercise Wellness Program and Parkinson’s Support Group; the BEST Protocol for Osteoporosis; Fall Prevention; Movement/Arts Immersion; and Physical Training (as an additional component of the Movement/Arts Immersion program).

To foster interaction and engagement with others, the newest addition to the Healthy Aging suite, a structured three-hour Movement/Arts Immersion Group Classes focuses exclusively on people in the mild stage of dementia. Teams of staff and volunteers lead the groups. In this program, participants enjoy movement/dance, arts, music, games, and discussions of current events or sports and have the option to add on Physical Training sessions designed to cater to the individual needs of the participant. Classes offered in a group format highlight the importance of undertaking fitness goals with the support of peers.

According to Linda Travis, PsyD, who joined the J last August as the Aging Adult Program Specialist, the J is a perfect place for participants and families to feel comfortable. As a community center, it is a setting quite unlike health care or clinics, which greatly reduces the feeling of stigma and isolation experienced by people with dementia. Furthermore, family members enjoy fitness time at the J or can schedule other social activities during the three-hour time block, knowing that their loved ones are enjoying their own activity.

Linda Travis, PsyD, Aging Adult Program Specialist, plays a game of air hockey with Stan Behr, who attends the Movement/Arts Immersion group classes and looks most forward to the social stimulation.

Family members of Healthy Aging Program participants are invited to come together once a month to share concerns, learn of resources, and further reduce their own isolation. Linda and Stan Behr are long standing J members who enjoy the benefits in the Movement/Arts Immersion Group Classes. Stan attends the class while Linda enjoys time in the J fitness center or with friends. Linda said, “It has been very successful for both Stan and I. As a caregiver, it has allowed me to exercise and meet other families.”

“We’re honored to be able to offer programs that serve such an important and ever-growing demographic in a unique, relaxed, comfortable, and inspiring setting. Not only do Healthy Aging programs benefit the participants we serve, but by really giving space and visibility to aging adults to live full, meaningful lives here at the J, we are pushing forward the entire Tucson community to embrace and meet the needs of this population,” said Dowe.

Dowe is the Senior Director of Wellness and oversees the J’s Fitness, Aquatics, Racket, and Athletics programs, as well as the Healthy Aging suite. Dowe and Travis, a licensed psychologist with over three decades of experience as a clinician, scholar, and educator in this area, are also developing staff trainings to help the entire team at the J become more effective when communicating with individuals living with dementia. As Healthy Aging Programs grow at the J, the two have their sights set on helping the J become a Dementia Friendly Community, whereby anyone experiencing changes in their cognition is welcome and can participate in fitness, social, or cultural activities of their choosing.

For more information on any of J’s Healthy Aging programs, please visit our website or call the J at 520-299-3000.

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