group of older adults gather outside in winter for hiking and birdwatching

Live Vibrantly - October 8, 2021

A Holistic Approach to Wellness: Goodwin House Celebrates Active Aging Week

by Amanda Ranowsky

The first week in October usually brings a feeling of change to the D.C. metro area. The weather finally begins to cool, leaves start to change colors and the feeling of fall settles in to place. As seasons shift, we might take time to re-evaluate our priorities and consider beginning new habits or strengthening old ones as we strive for a healthier and more engaged lifestyle.

That makes this a perfect time for Active Aging Week!

Every year, the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA) recognizes the first week in October as Active Aging Week. It’s a time to celebrate the benefits of active living at any age and to offer older adults in particular opportunities to take part in wellness activities.

Across the Goodwin House organization, our senior living communities and health care services, Active Aging Week is an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the wellness activities we offer year-round. The life enrichment teams at our senior living communities approach the week as a chance to showcase some special events that exemplify our regular offerings and engage both body and mind.

What Does Wellness Mean?

Wellness can mean different things to different people. Some might focus on diet and exercise while others might spend time tending to spiritual and mental health.

“For many senior living communities, fitness and wellness are synonymous,” said Brian Patterson, head of the Strategic Wellness Advance Team at Goodwin House and our Culinary Innovation & Development Chef. “We know that true wellness requires a more holistic approach.”

Maura Ferrigno, director of Life Enrichment at Goodwin House Alexandria (GHA), added to Brian’s observations. “We holistically look at residents as individuals with unique needs,” she said. “Human beings have the need to be engaged in a variety of ways, and everybody responds differently.”

ICAA Seven Dimensions of Wellness
The ICAA Seven Dimensions of Wellness (https://www.icaa.cc/activeagingandwellness/wellness.htm)

The Life Enrichment teams at Goodwin House define wellness using the holistic model offered by the ICAA: the Seven Dimensions of Wellness. This model helps the teams to consider the ways that residents may respond to an activity. By using this model, the teams ensure they are providing opportunities that stimulate engagement across all aspects of the residents’ lives.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, our Life Enrichment teams knew that it would be more important than ever to offer residents programming that would promote their holistic wellness and ensure they were taking part. The teams began to proactively track the activities they organized to ensure that all dimensions of wellness would be covered evenly in their planning. They also tracked resident participation in these events.

“There were concerns about residents being engaged meaningfully across all dimensions of wellness,” said Maura. “By tracking our activities this way, we had something concrete to show that we were doing well and that residents were being fully engaged.”

Covering All the Bases

With this focus on the Seven Dimensions of Wellness, the Life Enrichment teams saw an opportunity to add another occasion that would be ideally suited to their goals: Active Aging Week. “Last year during Active Aging week, we focused on a different dimension of wellness each day of the week,” said Elizabeth Whitehouse, Cultural Arts & Events Manager at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC). “This year, each program we offered was affiliated with multiple dimensions.”

The Seven Dimensions of Wellness include the following aspects:

  1. emotional wellness
  2. intellectual or cognitive wellness
  3. physical wellness
  4. professional or vocational wellness
  5. social wellness
  6. spiritual wellness
  7. environmental wellness

As we explore each dimension, we’ll offer examples of activities you can do wherever you are to address the Seven Dimensions of Wellness in your own life.

Emotional Wellness

GHBC residents take a seated chair chi class.
GHBC residents take a seated chair chi class.

Emotional wellness is the “ability to be aware of and direct one’s feelings” (ICAA). Life Enrichment routinely plans activities such as meditation, gardening, movies and museum trips. These kinds of activities encourage stress management, sharing laughter and talking with our peers – all things that help us regulate our emotional wellbeing.

During Active Aging Week, GHBC hosted Seated Chair Chi, a gentle exercise program that allows residents to receive the benefits of Tai Chi while seated. By asking residents to remain seated, this allows those who cannot stand or who may have less confidence with their balance to participate. Some benefits of Tai Chi can include reduced stress or anxiety and improved mood.

Intellectual or Cognitive Wellness

Residents do a trivia game with life enrichment staff
GHBC Director of Resident Services Tiffany Proctor leads a trivia session during Active Aging Week.

Intellectual or cognitive wellness is “engaging in creative pursuits and intellectually stimulating activities”. Intellectual stimulation can help to maintain or improve cognitive function. These activities can include book discussions, lectures and classes on a variety of topics.

GHBC held an afternoon of Trivia as part of their Active Aging Week events. Residents tested their knowledge of world history, art and literature.

Physical Wellness

GHA fitness instructor talks with resident about online video classes
GHA Fitness Manager Leslie LaPlace shows a resident the library of classes she created for residents and members to watch on Youtube.

Physical wellness encompasses more than physical activity. It also means getting adequate nutrition and sleep, making healthy choices such as limiting alcohol and refraining from smoking and keeping up with medical appointments.

GHA held a Health and Wellness Fair, during which they showcased the many health and wellness programs and services available to residents from both GHA staff and contracted providers. Residents sampled delicious and nutritious smoothies, and they could get a free hearing screening and mini massage at the event.

Professional or Vocational Wellness

GHBC resident Andrea Baumann leads a body flow class.
GHBC resident Andrea Baumann leads a body flow class.

Professional or vocational wellness involves using a person’s skills in a way that provides personal satisfaction while also contributing to society. These kinds of activities include volunteering, mentoring, participating in groups and teaching.

GHBC resident Andrea Baumann is a Certified Fitness Instructor. During Active Aging Week, she offered a popular Body Flow class.

residents play putt putt
GHA residents took turns around a putt putt course set up in the Auditorium.

At GHA, residents helped each other line up their shots on a nine-hole putt-putt course set up in the Auditorium.

Social Wellness

residents and staff take a jazzercise class
Residents and staff dance through a jazzercise class.

Social wellness is attained through “social interactions with family, friends, neighbors and chosen peer groups”. Any activities done with others can help to promote social wellness – participating in walking groups, attending concerts and taking part in holiday celebrations are just a few examples!

GHA held a popular Jazzercise class that got residents grooving together! A few staff members joined in the fun, too.

Spiritual Wellness

The Fiddle Diva plays for GHBC residents
The Fiddle Diva plays for GHBC residents.

Spiritual wellness is “living with meaning and purpose in life, guided by personal values”. It goes beyond any one denomination or religion. Those who are non-religious or atheist can still nurture spiritual wellness. Connecting with nature, practicing mindfulness and enjoying music can all be activities that encourage spiritual wellness.

At GHBC, residents enjoyed a toe-tapping recital from Celeste Ve, also known as The Fiddle Diva. Celeste is a frequent and favorite performer at GHBC.

Environmental Wellness

residents gather on pier before paddle boating
GHA residents prepare to head out for a morning of paddle boating.

Environmental wellness encourages good stewardship of our natural resources. It also looks at ways to bring people into nature, supported by urban and property designs that emphasize active living in the outdoors. Walking paths, garden boxes and outdoor events are all activities that support environmental wellness.

GHA residents took a trip to the Tidal Basin for a fun morning of paddle boating. Enjoying a beautiful early October day on the water, they also contributed to their physical, spiritual and social health!

Creating a Well-Rounded Lifestyle

If you are considering new habits or hobbies to add to your life this fall, consider where activities may fall in the Seven Dimensions of Wellness.

“It helps create a well-rounded lifestyle,” encouraged Elizabeth Whitehouse. “A lot of people focus on the physical aspects of aging, but not the emotional aspect, the environmental aspect – everything plays a part into your life. That’s been my biggest takeaway: not just to focus on one area, but how can we strengthen all the areas to create a better lifestyle.”

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As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin House Incorporated to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining GHI, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.

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