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Getting fit, even at 93

Butte Y offering seniors program STORY AND PHOTOS BY PAULA J. MCGARVEY for The Montana Standard

Dorothy Brand couldn’t keep from smiling as she lifted the bright pink hand weights up off her lap and into the air — gently moving them to the music. At the age of 93, Brand recently enrolled in her very first fitness class. After three sessions of the SilverSneakers Muscular Strength & Range of Movement class at the Butte Community YMCA, Brand was already convinced that getting fit can be fun at any age. The Butte Community YMCA recently entered into a partnership with Healthways, and began offering the organization’s trademarked SilverSneakers Fitness Program designed exclusively for older adults. SilverSneakers statistics list the average age of class participants to be 72, with 17 percent age 80 or older. “They (Healthways) really like to work with YMCAs because of the senior-friendly environment and the numerous other classes, pools and other equipment available to the members,” instructor Holly McCamant said. “We’re in over 1,000 YMCAs in the United

States,” Bryan Newton, Montana’s Healthways account manager for the SilverSneakers program, said. According to Newton, who is based outside Missoula, 20 of those YMCAs are in Montana. Healthways has more than 9,000 participating sites in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Newton said that program members can attend classes at any SilverSneakers site. McCamant became a certified SilverSneakers instructor and teaches the program’s Muscular Strength & Range of Movement class at the YMCA each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to noon. The entry level class uses bands, weights and balls in a series of specific exercises and can be performed in a standing or seated position. McCamant describes the class as a core class for the Healthways group exercise program. “Its purpose is to increase strength, range of

See SENIORS, Page 3 DOROTHY BRAND, left, performs a seated exercise variation, while instructor Holly McCamant demonstrates to SilverSneakers class member, George Gradl how to improve his balance.


Seniors ... Continued from Page A1 movement, agility, balance and coordination and to improve participants’ functional capacities, physical fitness level, and sense of well-being,” she said. Class member, George Gradl, 72, works out on his own, but said that he found the SilverSneakers class to be a good supplement to his regular routine. “I thought it was good for you — exercise and structuralwise,” he said. The regularly scheduled class times helps keep him exercising. “It’s getting into a routine and sticking with it,” he said. For Brand, the motivation is building up her strength and decreasing her risk of a disabling fall. “I know if I didn’t come — I don’t think I’d be as well off,” she said. Regular exercise has been shown to prevent or improve chronic conditions such as heart

disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Physical activity also helps ward off obesity and can decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. “The research points to significant health benefits from regular exercise in older adults,” Newton said. That benefit doesn’t stop with improvement in health. A 2008 study performed by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that older adults that participate in the SilverSneakers Fitness Program are admitted to the hospital less often and have lower overall health-care costs than non-plan members. McCamant said that the YMCA plans to add additional SilverSneakers classes. Classes

ABOVE: Holly McCamant, certified SilverSneakers instructor, leads Dorothy Brand, 93, George Gradl, 72, in the SilverSneakers Muscular Strength and Range of Movement class at the Butte Community YMCA recently. AT LEFT: Brand lifts hand weights in time to music. AT RIGHT: Gradl works on balance and coordination using a ball during a recent SilverSneakers class.

will include Cardio Circuit, YogaStretch and SilverSplash, a universal class designed to increase cardiovascular endurance, agility, strength and balance in a water environment. Newton said that Healthways contracts with more than

30 health plans nationwide to offer the SilverSneakers Fitness Program. In Montana, that plan is Humana. Humana offers the program to Medicare eligible adults, age 65 older, and individuals declared Medicare-disabled. Healthways contracts with

participating locations, such as the Butte Community YMCA, to offer the SilverSneakers program for participating health plans. Though the local SilverSneakers class is free to eligible Humana members, McCamant said that any current YMCA member or patron paying the YMCA daily-use rate is welcome to attend SilverSneakers classes. For details, call 782-1266. Paula J. McGarvey may be reached at 782-6510 or via e-mail at


Emergency room changes cater to seniors BY BLYTHE BERNHARD of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — Muted lighting, warm blankets, supportive mattresses and a quieter environment are all part of an effort to meet the urgent needs of older patients at St. Louis’s Des Peres Hospital, which opened geriatric emergency rooms this month. “85-year-old adults will typically access emergency departments twice a year,” said Deborah Wilke, a registered nurse and director of Des Peres’ emergency department. It’s common for hospitals to specialize their care based on changing demographics, much like emergency rooms were transformed years ago to meet the needs of pediatric patients. Ten years ago, people older than 65 made up 13 percent of the U.S. population. By 2030, that proportion is expected to

reach 20 percent. As fewer primary care doctors accept new patients on Medicare (government insurance for people 65 and older), emergency rooms will see more and more older patients. The older population will make up 30 percent to 40 percent of emergency room visits by 2030, according to estimates from the American College of Emergency Physicians. A 2008 report from the physicians group found that the current designs of most emergency rooms do not effectively meet the needs of older patients. The most common reason for a visit to the ER for older patients is a fall. But even minor conditions like urinary tract infections that wouldn’t be serious in a younger person

“85-year-old adults will typically access emergency departments twice a year. They’re so frail that if they get a little cough or cold, it can go into pneumonia.” Deborah Wilke, a registered nurse and director of Des Peres’ emergency department

can be debilitating to an elderly patient. “They’re so frail that if they get a little cough or cold, it can go into pneumonia,” Wilke said. On top of whatever urgent need brought the patient to the emergency room, older adults can have the added complication of dementia. The more comfortable the patient is, the less likely they are to be scared and confused in the hospital, Wilke said. A long life means a long medical history, so patients’ families are encouraged to stay

near the bedside at Des Peres and help with the dialogue between caregivers. Depression is another common factor for older emergency patients. Screening for depression in the emergency room can be effective if seniors are referred for further treatment, according to a recent Cleveland Clinic study. Older patients might also have problems with impaired mobility, vision and hearing. Des Peres uses mattresses designed for older patients to help reduce the risk of pressure

sores. Overhead lights can be dimmed. Hearing aids and reading magnifiers are available to patients who need them. There is no additional charge for the specialty services, Wilke said. The 13 full-time nurses in Des Peres’ emergency department took a 9-hour online course on geriatric emergency nursing to better understand the differences in treating older patients. Older patients tend to stay longer in the hospital and need more tests and follow-up treatments. The nurses learned to look for signs of discomfort by tracking sleeping patterns, behavior changes and activity levels of their older charges. “Typically with the geriatric patients, they don’t want to bother people,” Wilke said. “They think somebody else is more critical than they are.”


Senior-citizen volunteers fight Medicare fraud BY MATT SEDENSKY Associated Press Writer

MIAMI — The first box that arrived at Shirley Shupp’s door was filled with braces to help with her arthritis. Then came a motorized scooter, just like the one the 69-year-old already owned. She hadn’t asked for any of it — but Medicare was apparently footing the bill. “There was just something that wasn’t right about it,” the Houston woman said. So Shupp contacted her local Senior Medicare Patrol, which did its own research and then referred the matter to investigators. The equipment, worth thousands of dollars, was returned, the case was handed over to prosecutors and the perpetrators were charged with Medicare fraud. The Senior Medicare Patrol is one of the least-known forces in the government’s effort to eliminate such fraud, which drains billions of dollars a year. But it is seen as a valuable part of the Obama administration’s bid to overhaul health care and bring down costs. The 4,700 senior citizen volunteers who serve as the government’s eyes and

ears have been credited with saving taxpayers more than $100 million since 1997. The program relies on elderly people to apply a lifetime’s worth of common sense and skepticism. “They can tell when something just doesn’t feel right to them,” said Anne Gray, who works on the SMP program in Santa Ana, Calif. The patrol, which evolved from another program founded in 1995, now has at least one unit in every state. SMP sends its volunteers to senior centers, retirement communities and elsewhere to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to guard their personal information, beware of too-good-to-betrue offers on medical equipment and carefully review their benefit statements. The patrol also collects tips on potential scams and fields calls from senior citizens who believe their Medicare accounts have been fraudulently billed. When all they have is a whiff of something fishy, SMP participants often keep probing until they have enough information to send on to the FBI and investigators with the Centers for

Medicare and Medicaid Services. “It really is detective work,” said Barbara McGinity, director of the SMP in Houston. Patrol volunteers have witnessed all kinds of schemes. There are fly-by-night clinics where patients endure multiple tests at the hands of staff members with dubious credentials. Patients may be followed home from the hospital by companies selling home health services, scooters, glucose monitors or psychotherapy. Often, senior citizens are persuaded to give up their personal information with an offer of something they need, such as transportation to kidney dialysis appointments. “They get their number and they pass it around,” Gray said. “They have a ring where they’re selling it.” Beneficiaries may have no idea their identities have been wrongly used unless their accounts are frozen for unusual activity or they try to obtain something the government already bought for them, such as a pricey hospital bed or wheelchair. The Obama administration says elimi-

nating Medicare fraud is key to overhauling the health care system. But agents and prosecutors tackling the issue are relatively sparse. The patrol helps fill in the gaps. “There is no substitute for beneficiaries and on-the-ground resources to help us know where fraud is occurring and where problems are arising,” said Kimberly Brandt, who oversees Medicare anti-fraud efforts at CMS. All told, scam artists are believed to have stolen about $47 billion from Medicare in the 2009 fiscal year, nearly triple the toll a year earlier. Medicare spokesman Peter Ashkanaz said that since the Justice Department and Health and Human Services formed a task force after President Barack Obama took office, charges have been filed against 103 defendants in cases involving more than $100 million in Medicare fraud. For every Medicare thief the senior citizen volunteers successfully pursue, McGinity said, it seems there are dozens more. “Sometimes we feel like we’re really beating our heads against the wall,” she said.


Active life begins with healthy joints The new year often means resolutions like being healthier or exercising more often. What many people don’t know is that our joints are the critical part of the body that allows us to be active and do the activities we most enjoy. Approximately one-third of Americans 35 and older say their joints prevent them from doing their favorite sport or activity in the last year and more than 50 percent of them just accepted that as part of the aging process, according to a recent study. The good news is there are simple and effective steps you can take to strengthen and protect these “forgotten soldiers” — ensuring your joints a healthy kick-off to an active year. Dr. Kevin R. Stone, an orthopedic surgeon at the Stone Clinic and founder of the Stone Research Foundation and Joint Juice, a San Francisco-based joint health beverage company, offers five tips for helping to maintain healthy joints: 1. Manage your weight — You won’t just look better — you’ll feel better. Every extra pound puts four times the stress on your knees and other weight-bearing joints. Even a small amount of weight loss will give your joints relief.

2. Be supplement savvy — Dietary supplements like glucosamine have been proven to help maintain joint function and mobility. Glucosamine is produced naturally in the body, but due to the physical demands of everyday life (let alone running, tennis or even walking), our body’s supply is often not enough. Joint Juice beverages provide an easy way to drink your daily supply of glucosamine. 3. Stretch — Stretching isn’t just for workouts. Take breaks throughout the day, especially at the office, to get re-energized. Range-of-motion exercises are a good way to keep muscles and ligaments flexible and strong. 4. Use good technique — When sitting, standing and especially when lifting, using the proper technique will prevent fatigue and injury. Ask an expert if you don’t know how to do it, but be sure to assess your technique for these simple daily activities. 5. Make a date with your doctor — See a physician for a routine check-up at least once a year. Request an examination of your joints — from head to toe — and ask for tips on protecting your joints from daily stress. — Courtesy of ARAcontent


Must-haves for a mature household The aging population will have the second biggest impact of any factor on the remodeling industry over the next five years, according to the AARP and National Association of Home Builders. Why? Because today’s homeowners overwhelmingly prefer to live independently in their current homes, even if it means remodeling to meet their needs. Whether you modify your current house or purchase new these are some must-haves to ensure you’ll have a safe, secure and easily maintained home in which to spend your golden years: FLOOR PLAN ■ Open floor plan with wide, accessible paths ■ Single-story home or a two-story with a first-floor master bedroom BATHROOM ■ First-floor master bathroom equipped with safety products, such as grab bars, elevated toilet seats and shower chairs ■ Curbless shower, featuring a handheld showerhead with an extra long hose ■ Adjustable- or varied-height countertops

KITCHEN AND LAUNDRY ■ Adjustable- or varied-height countertops ■ Upper wall cabinetry 3 inches lower than conventional height ■ Pull-out kitchen faucet with lever handles ■ First-floor laundry with front-loading machines ELECTRICAL AND SECURITY ■ Light switches by each entrance to halls and rooms ■ Security system connected to police, fire and EMS ■ Flashing porch light or 911 switch FLOORING ■ Smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces ■ Less than ½-inch pile carpet with firm padding EXTERIOR * Low-maintenance exteriors, such as vinyl or brick * Covered garage or carport * Handrails near steps — Courtesy of ARAcontent


Tips for staying safe through winter Even if you’re not driving through a blizzard, the effects of winter weather pose a mobility challenge for everyone, whether it’s the possibility of slipping on the sidewalk or delayed flights due to icy runways. Cold temperatures only add to the frustration of winter travel. It’s little wonder that some people just stay home. For seniors, in particular, the ice and snow of winter is more than a discomfort — it’s a hazard. It’s so easy to slip and fall that many choose to stay inside, rather than take the risk of an injury from falling. Going outside to simply get the mail can seem like a chance they don’t want to take. The best way to face down winter and all its challenges is to think ahead and be prepared. A few simple solutions will make winter much safer — and more enjoyable. ■ Get the right gear — Clothing has serve a real purpose in winter. Not only do you need added warmth, you have to have traction gear. Most shoes just aren’t able to stand up to the conditions of winter, and become hazardous when the world is glazed with ice. Innovative products like Stabilicers, ice cleats from

32 North,, make any shoes into ground-gripping wonders. ■ Prepare your car — First, make sure your car is ready by checking that its fluids are up to the correct levels and its wheels and tires are in good condition. It’s also a good idea to keep an up-to-date emergency kit in the vehicle in case you become stranded. Include good jumper cables because if you get caught in the cold with a dead car, they will be your ticket home. Also include blankets, a flashlight, flares, a first aid kit, a small shovel, a window scraper and a bag of something that will help you gain traction, like kitty litter, sand or salt. Extra hats and gloves can be handy, too, as can small, non-perishable snacks like energy bars or granola bars.

■ Pay attention to your property — It’s important to keep a close eye on your gutters, steps and sidewalks. When the snow starts to fall, shovel regularly. The Stabilicer ice cleats can also come in handy while you’re doing outdoor chores, giving you better traction to make the job quicker, so you can get back in out of the cold. — Courtesy of ARAcontent

Our Time January 2010  

A quarterly publication of The Montana Standard

Our Time January 2010  

A quarterly publication of The Montana Standard