Customized fitness programs provide added benefit with couple’s new home

Jan. 4, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Grand Living at Lake Lorraine.

Con and Pat VanRoekel knew eventually they would need some extra help.

Con was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2005, and the northwest Iowa couple knew it would get progressively worse.

“We knew eventually we were going to have to come somewhere we could get some assistance,” Pat said.

Their daughter first noticed Grand Living from the interstate.

“She saw this huge building and went to look at what it was,” Pat said. “They offered her a tour right away.”

She called her parents, then in Arizona, and said she’d found the perfect place for them to move.

“When we came back, we went to look at it, and everything was so new and fresh,” Pat said. “It overlooked Lake Lorraine, and it was just more like a resort than a senior living place.”

Most importantly, once they settled into their apartment, services would be brought to them as Con began to require them.

“Our apartment is very nice and spacious and everything is pretty,” Pat said. “They have activities, and you can do as many as you want. You can do a little swimming or come into the fitness center anytime you want.”

In the fitness center, they discovered a Grand Living program perfect for Con.

Director of fitness Ryan Thomas, who is based at Grand Living’s Citrus Hills community in Florida, develops fitness programs that are unique for a senior living community and created for symptom-specific exercise.

Research led him to the University of Florida’s movement disorder clinic and a Parkinson’s-specific exercise program in Cincinnati.

Now, he has created an exercise program designed to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

“They don’t all suffer from the same symptoms, so we like to take the symptoms they deal with most on a daily basis and create their program based on that,” Thomas said.

Many individual programs involve an emphasis on cardiovascular fitness, strength training, flexibility, balance and posture.

Thomas trains all of Grand Living’s fitness coordinators in the program, and they meet monthly for updates and to share how it’s working.

“I’ve seen someone who was sitting in a wheelchair and not very active at all go from five minutes of cardio to 30 minutes five days a week,” Thomas said. “He’s up and out of the wheelchair and walking with assistance.”

In Con’s case, the program has been positive.

“It’s helped me tremendously,” he said. “I seem to have better balance, and that’s an area I have to keep working.”

His wife has noticed a positive change too. When they first moved to Grand Living, her husband had “more bad days than good,” she said.

“And now, it’s more good days than bad. It’s good to see him be able to move around. And after he’s done, he’s tired, but he’s able to move much easier after that. It keeps him from stiffening up, which is what Parkinson’s will do.”

The fitness training has helped Pat too. She began exercising there as physical therapy following a knee replacement, with help from Grand Living’s resident fitness coordinator.

“The machine they have me use moves my knees and keeps my leg from stiffening up, and it’s been great,” she said. “My knee has not had any pain. And I have used the pool for water walking and water aerobics, which is really good for people our age.”

All Grand Living fitness services are included in residents’ rents, Thomas added.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “When I first came into the company, I had visited other senior communities and seen what their fitness centers had to offer. And a lot of times, it’s a closet with a couple old pieces of equipment that frankly doesn’t look very safe and no one to help the resident.”

Grand Living’s approach is “totally innovative,” he added.

“We have a state-of-the-art fitness center that meets the needs of our residents and more. And we build all of them a personalized program. It’s just an innovative approach that has come from the top down. At Grand Living, our vision is to provide the best experience for our residents possible, and the fitness center and spa area are just another way we can do that.”

And when they’re done working out, the VanRoekels are enjoying living in the same town as their children and grandchildren – making for a lot more family time.

“I love it,” Con said. “We have four grandchildren within a 20-mile radius, and when we go to a school program we can leave the apartment at 6 p.m., go to a program at 6:30 p.m. and then be home instead of living 50 miles away.”

Inside Grand Living, they’re also making new friends.

“You come downstairs and end up spending an hour and a half talking before you go back upstairs. I’ve really enjoyed that,” Pat said. “It’s been really great, and the people have been wonderful.”

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Customized fitness programs provide added benefit with couple’s new home

You might not think of cutting-edge fitness programs in a senior living community. But at Grand Living, they’re nothing short of life-changing.

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