It’s easy to feel discouraged and depressed during the long and dreary winter months. The days can be long and hard, providing numerous challenges from the cold, snow, and ice. These cold days impact everyone’s ability to get out and about the community, but difficulties especially increase for older adults who are more susceptible to falls and injury.
Fortunately, there are countless activities to reduce the risk of falls and injuries that take place because of falls.
There are also people like Tyson Dukes, a Senior Fitness Specialist and owner of InHome Fitness Solutions, who focuses on the older generation.
“The biggest challenge I see most often during winter months are older adults stuck in the home because they don’t drive anymore. They have medical conditions that make it challenging to leave, or the fear of falling outside is so great they don’t have the confidence to leave the home,” Dukes said. “These people are the most at risk of declining in health due to a decrease in activity.”
The full impact of a hard winter isn’t often seen in someone until springtime. These individuals hibernate all winter, and once warmer temperatures arrive. Some suddenly find they aren’t able to complete the activities they did prior to winter.
“A couple of recommendations I provide to my clients is to stay active first and foremost…don’t get too comfortable in that recliner,” Dukes said. “New research is showing a direct correlation in the amount of time spent in a recliner equating to a decrease in life expectancy.”
Research is proving that an active lifestyle can do wonders for a person’s health. This is true of all ages, but there are basic exercises Dukes incorporates into a session that challenges strength and balance. When completed at the appropriate level, the exercises can have a positive impact on a person’s immunity, blood pressure, diabetes, bone density, arthritic pain while reducing the risk of falls, bone fractures, and loss of independence.
Some individuals prefer to stay active but don’t know what is appropriate to incorporate into their life. Other people begin to feel frustrated with their body aging and quit participating in many of the activities they once enjoyed.
“I always keep this in mind and like to share what George Bernard Shaw stated: ‘We don’t quit playing because we grow old. We grow old because we quit playing,’” Dukes said. “This being said, obviously there are different levels of ability and conditions when working with the older adult.”
“While any activity is good activity, it’s important to strengthen foundational muscles even more as a person ages,” he said.
For instance, while building a home, a good foundation is important so the walls don’t eventually come tumbling down. He says a body is similar. If the core muscles aren’t properly developed, the “walls” fall apart, and it can lead to poor posture, decreased endurance, increased pressure through the joints, and decreased balance.
“Many older adults have the exact same routine each day. Because of this pattern, certain muscles help too much and others turn off like a light switch because they aren’t being used,” he said “Having someone with the proper experience to ‘turn on’ those muscles through exercise can help dramatically.”
Another struggle for some older adults during winter months is lack of socialization. It can become an ultimate challenge for some, and unfortunately, there are many in the Iowa Great Lakes Area who find themselves in this situation.
Dukes has an opportunity to help his clients gain the strength and confidence to get out and socialize with others. It may be through exercise to inviting others over to play cards or joining a club to finding services available in the community.
“It can be overwhelming for an individual trying to make that change to get healthy, stronger, and maintain their identity. The key is starting – no matter what that is,” Dukes said. “Family recognizing a need for assistance is also very important. The older generation can be very prideful and they don’t always think or recognize they might need help – sometimes a discussion between the family and someone like myself can answer questions and help educate how and why services might be needed.”
This is ultimately why Dukes started InHome Fitness Solutions. He had a desire to help the older adult stay strong enough to safely stay at home. It is the place where they raised their children and where their grandchildren like to play. Staying in their home gives an individual a huge sense of identity and accomplishment.
He also wants a client to maintain their purpose in the community. While it may have changed from younger years, he said there are countless ways and areas that need support. The older adult often has more time to assist and fill needs than younger generations.
The first step is finding the activity that is still important to the individual and work on ways to maintain it in their life. It can be as simple as attending church and not needing help to stand from the pew.
This is also true with an individual fighting dementia or Alzheimer’s. Dukes has found that using executive functioning exercises provides the mental control to manage the body and activities from day-to-day.
It can be difficult to manage the cold winter days if you can’t leave the home, but there are ways to stay active. Dukes at InHome Fitness Solutions is ready to prepare the older generation for the warmth and beauty of spring.
Story Behind InHome Fitness Solutions
Dukes has a BS degree in Health Care Management and an AAS degree as a Physical Therapist Assistant and has been trained as a senior fitness specialist. Through the years, he has worked as a physical therapist in hospitals, home health systems, outpatient clinics and in nursing facilities. This is where he noticed a trend with older adults after an injury or a fall.
“They would come in for help, and once improved, they would be discharged,” he said. “A few months later, several of these same older adults would be back to therapy with the same problem or potentially worse problems because of another accident at home. They weren’t able to keep up the work required at home to maintain or improve their condition.”
Dukes felt he could help these people prevent these injuries if he could’ve helped them longer, but most insurances only allow therapy for a short period of time.
“I’ve always said the easy work for patients is when they are with the experienced health care worker,” he said. “The hard work truly begins when they are back home and expected to do it on their own. I looked around our communities, and I thought there was a gap in service for those struggling older adults who needed a more highly trained individual to help them maintain their strength and balance, yet not restricted or limited by insurance. Hence, InHome Fitness Solutions was born.”