Orchard Cove offers seniors a goal-oriented wellness program
By Meg Murphy | Globe Correspondent August 23, 2012
CANTON — At Orchard Cove, the residents are into fitness. Nearly three-quarters of them take aerobic classes, lift weights, or practice yoga and balance techniques. These seniors exercise to feel good and, in many cases, to fulfill loftier goals.
A lifelong fitness enthusiast, Sylvia Namyet, 88, supplemented her regular yoga practice with new routines to help her balance. Her long-term goal involved making a solo cross-country trip to visit adult children in Oregon and California. After a year of physical conditioning, she finally did it last year, the first time she had traveled alone in 45 years.
A year ago, Natalie Waterman, 86, started exercising on a daily basis. She dropped more than 30 pounds, putting an end to years of immobility and isolation following a hip injury at 81. Today Waterman favors New Balance sneakers and exercise classes that fit her busy schedule. She has become a socialite within the community, and she rarely spends a day alone.
These active residents are taking part in a pilot wellness program called Vitality 360, which uses computerized tools to evaluate and track the physical, emotional, and mental health of seniors, and helps them meet individual goals with personal coaching and follow-up. The information collected is contributed to a national database of research.
Vitality 360 is part of an ambitious project called Collage, which was created in 2003 as a joint venture between Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research, a nonprofit affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and Kendal Outreach, a nonprofit arm of the Kendal Corp., a system of services and communities for older adults in eight states. Collage has been developing a suite of assessment tools and programs, such as Vitality 360, to optimize well-being for older adults.
With people living longer and elder housing providers looking to improve their offerings to seniors seeking active lives, Vitality 360 gives Orchard Cove an edge among assisted-living communities because it offers data, via Collage, that proves the goal-setting program improves health and life satisfaction among residents — a real selling point as well as an innovative concept.
The aim is to change the way we think about aging, said John N. Morris, director of social and health policy research at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research. Collage has gathered health and wellness profiles on more than 10,000 adults 65 and older at 60 retirement communities and aging housing locations in 20 states, he said.
At Orchard Cove, seniors are more upbeat, active, and happier with life after embracing fitness and other challenging goals as participants in Vitality 360, which is in keeping with national data, according to Morris. He said the data show that people are more positive and their lives are better when they set goals and those goals are reinforced.
“This is a revolutionary concept. It is about reaching out to healthy elders and asking, ‘How can we go forward in a way that might work differently?’” he said.
Aline Russotto, executive director of Orchard Cove, a Hebrew SeniorLife community, said it has been exciting to track the health and wellness benefits for seniors participating in Vitality 360.
We are seeing a tremendous increase in our fitness programs because seniors want to possess the physical capacity to do the things they care about,” she said.
Ninety percent of Orchard Cove’s 240 residents have joined Vitality 360, and the number of residents exercising has climbed from 30 percent to more than 75 percent since the pilot program’s launch at the site three years ago, Russotto said.
Other Hebrew SeniorLife communities are adopting Vitality 360, including Center Communities of Brookline, NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham, and the Jack Satter House in Revere. The program is also operating at Kendal at Hanover, N.H., a retirement community located near Dartmouth College.
“We can think of aging in a different way. The population is getting older and people are more active later; why not help them to see themselves as vital?” said Mindy Gradofsky-Gilmore, a social worker at Orchard Cove.
“Our program is raising the bar for seniors,” Russotto said. “At this stage in life, seniors are dealing with loss — loss of role, loss of family, loss of friends, loss of spouse. We help to empower them again. We focus on what they can still do. They can still have goals. It is not just about what happened in their lives but what will happen, and how they can direct that.”
Namyet joined the Vitality 360 program at Orchard Cove two years ago after the death of her husband, Saul, a retired Northeastern professor of civil engineering. The couple lived in Sharon for 45 years and together at Orchard Cove for seven more.
“’I don’t want you to forget the outside world. I want you to stay busy,’” Namyet recalls her husband telling her near the end of his life. Yet in the weeks following his death, she was at a loss, she says, and found herself thinking: “What do I do with my life?”
Vitality 360 begins with a one-hour conversation with a personal coach, and Namyet said it helped her imagine a future. “I realized what they are telling us is so true — it is nice to look on our lives, if we’re lucky, but we have to now sit down and look at our future and literally plan a goal,” she said.
Namyet set the goal of visiting her children on the West Coast. She worked on her balance, which was shaky, kept up with daily yoga, prepared travel plans, and made the journey. She also took part in a variety of committees at Orchard Cove.
“I let myself get more involved again,” said Namyet, who in younger years was involved as a member of the School Committee in Sharon and the League of Women Voters.
Her coach also encouraged Namyet to gather her watercolor artwork and begin painting once more. “The program is keeping me going. It has encouraged us to do a lot of things,” she said, adding that community is an essential component.
“If Orchard Cove wasn’t here, if I lived by myself, I don’t think I would be alive. I don’t think you can live without this kind of atmosphere. It is friendly, familial, a home,” she said.
Russotto said the assessment tool in Collage is allowing the success of Vitality 360 to be tracked, which is crucial. Fitness is a main component, she said, but it is motivated by goals that are often larger such as writing a memoir, or volunteering in the community, or playing a leadership role in one’s family, and wanting to possess the physical capacity to do these things.
“What we’re seeing through our program is that seniors are becoming more active, more involved, and reporting greater satisfaction in the quality of their life and greater satisfaction in their health. We’re seeing that we have a tremendous increase in participation in our fitness programs,” Russotto said. “As more communities use a program like Vitality 360, we will be able to prove outcomes for the senior population.”
One Orchard Cove resident, for example, wanted to get to her daughter’s wedding, so she embraced a fitness schedule to regain necessary balance and endurance.
“The conversation with the coach allows residents to stop and really think about what’s important to them,” Russotto said. “I think this resident decided attending her daughter’s wedding was important because she realized she wants to leave a legacy for her family; she wants to be matriarch.”
For Waterman, who moved to Orchard Cove a year ago, the Vitality 360 program helped her get out into the world again. At 81, she broke her hip, retired as on-site owner of Prime Cleaners in Canton and West Roxbury, and, for five years lived alone in her Newton home. It was a lonely time — until she moved to Orchard Cove and signed on with its wellness program.
“I like to be involved,” Waterman said in a recent interview.
Namyet, listening to her friend’s account of those solitary years, nodded.
“Can I just say that must have been hell? She’s a people person,” said Namyet. “Since she’s been here, she’s made more friends than anyone I know.”
Today Waterman does several types of aerobics classes per week and uses the weight machines as well. Exercise has helped her mentally and socially; she has indeed made many friends.
“She’s our star right now,” said Namyet, smiling at Waterman.
Fitness Regimens, Well Beyond Shuffleboard
Published May 9, 2012
By Elizabeth Olson
GROWING old these days is no longer fading away gracefully, but “doing something active like playing golf, coming back and dropping dead,” says Colin Milner, who directs a group promoting active aging. “It’s not years of decline.”
His blunt, jocular prescription reflects a push by some retirement communities for more structured and data-based wellness and fitness programs that go beyond just adding aerobics classes or newer fitness machines; they are meant to systematically help seniors fend off frailty and the effects of age-related diseases.
“People are living much longer — 80 is the new 70 — and are more aware of their health, the importance of balance to guard against falls, and exercise to keep their core strong,” says Diana Cox, director of resident health care services at Kendal at Hanover, a New Hampshire retirement community.
Retirees entering so-called independent living communities often say they want active lives, but such places can come up short in trying to fulfill that desire. While staff could assess the needs of residents and make recommendations, they had no way to follow through to determine whether residents actually met their goals.
To bridge this gap, Kendal at Hanover, and Orchard Cove, in Canton, Mass., are offering a new program called Vitality 360, which uses computerized assessment tools to evaluate the health and wellness of residents, and then provides intensive personal coaching, goal-setting and follow-up.
The health information gathered from residents goes into a national database, which is used to help seniors set short- and long-term goals and measure their results regularly.
“We spent a few years scratching our heads, trying to figure out what we could do to make their lives better,” said Aline Russotto, executive director of Orchard Cove, which is part of the Hebrew SeniorLife communities in Massachusetts.
Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research, a nonprofit affiliated with Harvard Medical School, joined with Kendal Outreach, a nonprofit arm of the Kendal Corporation retirement communities, to begin collecting senior health and wellness data in 2003. The joint venture, called Collage, has accumulated health profiles on more than 10,000 adults 65 and older at 60 retirement communities and aging housing locations in 20 states.
The communities, as members of Collage, compile details on each resident’s physical, emotional and mental health as well as their needs, preferences and challenges.
This produces information like the average medical condition or the average functional level for a specific age, said Dr. Robert Schreiber, chief medical officer for Hebrew SeniorLife, which houses the data repository.
The data also might include how far a typical 80-year-old can walk unassisted and the average number of falls, average cognitive level or incidence of depression of such a person, said Neil Beresin, Collage’s national program manager.
But data was not enough, said Ms. Russotto. “We had the data, but we didn’t always know what to do with it,” she said. “We could talk them through setting goals, but we had no way to measure the outcome of residents’ efforts.”
Orchard Cove developed a program to train professionals as senior coaches to elicit information in a conversational way and employ the Collage data to guide residents in setting goals that might be as simple as walking to the dining room or as adventuresome as hiking a mountain.
Some newly arrived residents already had incorporated exercise into their daily routines. Others, like Natalie Waterman, 86, who moved to Orchard Cove 10 months ago, had not exercised much in recent years, particularly after she broke a hip while on a cruise five years ago.
“I had done very little, walking from the house to the car, the car to the house,” said Ms. Waterman, who ran a dry cleaning business in Newton, Mass., for 50 years. “It was laziness, I think.”
Fear of fitness is “one of our biggest challenges,” said Susan Flashner-Fineman, the senior coach at Orchard Cove. Only 47 percent of those 65 years and over meet national exercise guidelines, and many fewer achieve strength-training benchmarks, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control figures.
“But the more people do, the more they realize they can do,” said Ms. Flashner-Fineman. And that includes Ms. Waterman, who is exercising daily since she was assessed, losing 25 pounds along the way, and is striving daily “to keep my health and live longer.”
Improving geriatric health and fitness makes sense, said Mr. Milner, chief executive of the International Council on Active Aging, a network of senior aging groups.
“The goal of a retirement community should be to make sure the client is healthy and stays as long as possible, without moving to a higher level of care, which is more costly,” he said. Studies, he adds, show that physical activity by the aging promotes longevity and combats chronic diseases as well as depression.
“That realization has popped,” Mr. Milner said. “Wellness and fitness have never been more important.”
Seniors also are more aware, he said, of government findings that as many as one-third of those 65 years old and over fall every year, with 20 percent suffering severe injuries including lacerations, hip fractures or head traumas.
Such injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control, make it harder to be mobile and live independently. But the risk of falling, according to research, can be reduced by strengthening legs and improving gait and balance.
At Kendal, Ms. Cox said the Collage assessments had led to broader changes. While its 420 current residents — average age 84 — were largely healthy and taking few medications, some needed help dealing with chronic pain, the data showed.
“We formed a pain group as a result,” Ms. Cox said. “We’ve got a team with a nurse practitioners, social workers and rehabilitation specialists to educate and help residents with pain issues which make them less active and less mobile.”
At Orchard Cove, 86 percent of its 240 residents have joined the Vitality 360 program. Even though one-quarter of residents use canes, walkers and scooters, Ms. Russotto said a top goal was to increase fitness so much that “we can have a walker bonfire someday.”
A time to live, not stop
Q&A with Dr. Jennifer Brinckerhoff
October 24, 2011
By Karen Weintraub, Globe Correspondent
Dr. Jennifer Brinckerhoff
Brinckerhoff, medical director of Hebrew SeniorLife Medical Group at Orchard Cove in Canton, is one of the scheduled speakers at a two-part lecture series on retirement living, Thursday and Nov. 10. For more information: www.hslindependentliving.org.
Q. As the geriatrician at a facility where the average resident is 89 years old, what do you see as the keys to successful aging?
A. The people I find who do the best with aging are those who are able to focus on what they have left to give, not just their limitations. Often people get bogged down in what they can’t do: They can’t drive anymore, or they can’t walk without pain, and they can’t see as well. You can still look at your years ahead and say: “How do I want to make the best of this?’’ It’s probably a lot easier if you learn that [way of thinking] from a young age, but it doesn’t mean you can’t learn it when you get older.
Q. So, you encourage them to avoid talking about illness or death?
A. Aging has more to do with living than it does with dying or illness. We try to help people to gain a perspective and knowledge base so they can help themselves age better. There’s a difference between being in denial, and putting those medical illnesses in a place that can be separate from the enjoyment of your day-to-day life. Just because you’re not focusing on them doesn’t mean you’re ignoring them - just that you’re not allowing them to take over.
Q. Is it safe to assume that staying active is also crucial for healthy aging?
A. The more active they can be and the more socially plugged in they can be, the more we find they can have joy and empowerment and independence.
Q. Diet is obviously important, too. What do you think people over 80 often neglect in their diet?
A. Drinking enough liquids [is crucial]. Between 45 and 65 ounces of noncaffeinated liquids a day really helps people to maintain blood pressure, to fight back some of the side effects of multiple medications, to keep them more energized and able to do more activities. A lot of times people will try not to drink because they don’t want to have to go to the bathroom. [But] you can do scheduled voiding and bladder training. You can still drink liquids and have control over your independence.
Q. Isn’t there also a lot of sorrow for people in their 80s and 90s, as they watch friends and family members die?
A. We talk about the concept of accumulated grief. Each death in itself isn’t just additive, it’s almost multiplicative, because each time you have a significant loss, it brings up all those feelings of grief and loss from when your sister died or your best friend died. It’s something that never really goes away. But look what you’ve had. If you had never grown that attachment, you never would have suffered the loss, but you never would have had the love either.
Q. You are a strong believer in limiting the number of pills older people take.
A. That worrisome number is about four pills. People who are on more [than four pills a day] have more falls, they have more adverse drug reactions, they have more trips to the emergency room. It’s not like when you turn 80, you say “I’m not going to take more than four pills.’’ A good geriatrician can help you [decide which pills to prioritize].
Q. Has working with older patients changed your own perspective on aging?
A. I guess it’s inspiring to see the people who are really doing it well. That’s the ultimate privilege: to be able to be old. The alternative is you’re not here. I’m reminded of that every day, so I just love what I do.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Karen Weintraub can be reached at Karen@KarenWeintraub.com.
Canton’s Redmont receives prestigious French Legion of Honor recognition for work as journalist
By Paula Vogler
Wicked Local Canton
Canton — Canton resident Bernard Redmont, 92, joined an elite group of Americans who have received France’s highest recognition in a ceremony at Orchard Cove Sept. 27.
Named a Chevalier or Knight in the French Legion of Honor in 1973, Redmont was promoted to Officier, or Officer, and received his award from Consul General of France in Boston Christophe Guilhou on behalf of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Guilhou said Redmont had a passion for promoting a better understanding of France in the United States even during great times of turmoil and unrest, and continues to strengthen the strong bond between the two countries.
“His passion for French culture is outstanding and deserves recognition,” Guilhou said. “His continued dedication has earned him a promotion.”
Redmont, a former CBS News bureau chief, was a foreign correspondent who lived and worked in France for more than 27 years, and most recently, the dean of the College of Communication at Boston University. In all, he has reported in more than 50 countries.
During his career, he has earned numerous other awards and honors such as being inducted into the Communication Hall of Fame in 2001, a Pulitzer Fellow in 1939-1940 and the Overseas Press Club Award for best radio reporting from abroad in 1969 and 1974.
He worked in freedom in France, a place he said he could be fully himself without the “erosion of the soul that happens in so many other places.”
“For a journalist like me, France was a country where it was good to work,” Redmont said, speaking in both English and French. “The affection I’ve had for France has not changed.”
When McCarthyism hysteria caused the United States government to pull his work papers in the 1950s, France made a way for him to stay and work.
It was while in France in 1968 that Redmont broke the story about a high-ranking North Vietnamese official who told him if the United States stopped the bombing of Hanoi, they would come to the table to negotiate peace to end the Vietnam War.
Redmont said the only way to communicate between him and the North Vietnamese official was the French language.
Redmont said he is an American citizen with an American passport, but out of nostalgia keeps his French residence card that has expired.
He lamented the fact that the love of other cultures is vanishing and said it is important to immerse oneself in another culture to learn about the spirit, the politics and the ways of living.
“This is a great honor and I accept it in all humility,” Redmont said. “France overwhelms me by decorating me with the Legion of Honor.”
June Kredenser was one of nearly 100 friends and family members who turned out at Orchard Cove to watch Redmont receive his award. She has known Redmont for 11 years and said he hosts a monthly current events talk for Orchard Cove residents.
“There is always a big turnout when he is speaking,” Kredenser said. “There is no pretense about him. He’s a nice man.”
Other past honorees include Walt Disney, Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Queen Elizabeth II and most recently Liza Minelli in July.
Paula Vogler can be reached at 508-967-3515 or by email at email@example.com.
Links to Other Bernard Redmont Articles:
Canton seniors thrive in new aging program
By Kate Sullivan Foley
April 29, 2010
Canton - At 85, Sylvia Namyet is excited about the future. Her plans include traveling more, diversifying her volunteer efforts and picking up her once beloved interest in pastel painting.
A resident of Orchard Cove in Canton for the past seven years, Namyet recently participated in Vitality 360, a pilot program initiated to help residents redefine aging and improve the quality of their lives. Fifty residents volunteered to go through the six-month process that includes a scientific assessment of their lives with a focus on seven aspects -- health, nutrition, physical fitness, mental fitness, community links, lifelong learning and spirituality.
The first phase was a 45-minute interview with Orchard Cove's wellness coach. Namyet answered a series of questions, which helped her reflect on her active and productive life.
A mother of three and an avid volunteer, Namyet taught in the Sharon Public Schools before earning her master's degree in reading. She then worked in the Canton Public Schools for more than 16 years before retiring in the late 1980s.
A Sharon resident for more than 54 years, Namyet served on the School Committee, helped start the League of Women Voters, served as its president and was involved with her synagogue. She and her late husband, Saul, also were active volunteers with the former Striar Jewish Community Center where they helped run a seniors program.
"We may look backwards to those lives we had before - but we all have to look forward," Namyet said.
The second phase was about preparing for the future and setting personal goals.
For many seniors, Namyet said, moving into a continuing care retirement community, like Orchard Cove, means their lives are over.
Not true, she said; rather it is a new beginning.
"We are not here to end our lives - we just need to pause a little and recalculate our future," Namyet said.
Vitality 360, innovative and unique, is helping seniors do just that, according to Aline Russutto, Orchard Cove Executive Director.
It helps seniors decide those next steps they want to take and gives them the tools to be successful in each one, Russutto said.
"How many people think that when they are 80-plus years old they are going to sit down and set goals and achieve those goals?" Russutto asked.
After retirement, it is easy for seniors to lose sight of life's purpose, she said. Vitality 360 helps them refocus.
"We are empowering our residents to really think about their lives," Russutto said.
Natalie Linden, a retired registered nurse, relished the opportunity to sit down with a professional and talk about her life.
"The staff here is wonderful - they have all been trained to realize the problems of the aging," she said.
Through Vitality 360, she said, they don't just look at one part of the person but instead look at the whole person.
The effort already has been very beneficial for many seniors, she said.
Those who needed to become more physical are finding strength through exercise, and many who were shy are learning to come out of their homes more often and get involved, Linden said.
"It helps us see what we can do to make sure we use all of our God-given blessings to keep ourselves active, useful and productive," she said. Staff members, including a social worker, fitness director, chaplain and nurse practitioner, are readily available to help residents with Vitality plans meet their desired goals, Linden said.
"Whatever we choose to do, we have all kinds of support," she said.
Socially busy and physically active, Linden, who has lived at Orchard Cove for 16 ½ years, found three goals for her future which she already is well on her way to achieving.
To lose a few extra pounds, she started getting on the treadmill three times a week in addition to her morning walks. She's lost four pounds.
With her many interests and commitments at Orchard Cove, she is quite busy. To maintain her role as a "devoted and loving mother and grandmother," she believes she needs to invest a little more effort.
To ensure weekly communication with loved ones, she now schedules time to talk on the phone with each of her grandchildren and with her son. She also looks forward to dinner once a week with her daughter and son-in-law.
And finally, she plans to continue volunteering.
"When I come off of one committee, I try to look for another one," she said.
At 86, she is proud of her full and wonderful life. She hopes other seniors will take the time to evaluate their lives and embrace new opportunities.
"At any age, people can still have new challenges and continue to be very productive," Linden said.
Orchard Cove is a continuing care retirement community from Hebrew SeniorLife
(HSL), a nationally-recognized non-profit leader in senior healthcare, housing and wellness, and the Vitality 360 program was created based on years of research from HSL's Institute for Aging Research. Orchard Cove estimates that 90 percent of its 300 independent living residents will choose to participate in the Vitality 360 program and should be in the "coaching" phase of the program by September 2010.
Results are in:
The following are the results of the six-month Vitality 360 pilot program at Orchard Cove: * 75 percent of participants now exercise regularly (a 50 percent increase from before the program); demand for fitness programs is so high Orchard Cove has hired a second personal trainer.
- The program showed that many residents were having balance issues that limited their movement and socialization; Orchard Cove implemented an evidence-based balance class that has helped many residents become more independent and engaged in the community.
- Many residents have reconnected with family members after setting a goal to improve their relationships and this connection has increased their well-being, outlook on life and involvement in the community.
A GOOD AGE: 86-year-old fights off cancer to direct musical
By Sue Scheible
October 27, 2009
Jack Morris is 86, and just made a comeback from colon cancer. He is directing a musical at Orchard Cove Retirement Community on Oct. 29.
They've still got it. Oh yes. Sylvia Gorberg, 91, with her exquisite soprano. Shirley Goldberg, 87, who rolls through the tongue-twisting lyrics of "Nagasaki." Elliot Kraft, 89, with his mischievous "Jeepers Creepers."
"They want to do it; they love to do it and it's an accomplishment," says Barbara Stoller, 79, of Milton.
They're all members of the cast of "We're Just Wild About Harry," this year's musical-variety show at Orchard Cove retirement community. These seniors do enjoy the music of featured composer Harry Warren. But it's really 86-year-old Jack Morris they're wild about.
Morris is both director and "the miracle" behind the drama taking place at Orchard Cove. A year ago, everyone thought he was on his deathbed after surgery for colon cancer. The 2008 show was canceled. Then in August, word came that he would be back for his 17th year. "Some of my wonderful old-timers showed up," Morris says. "They were tickled to death."
It is especially touching to see a group of people in their 80s and 90s work hard to perform challenging Broadway routines and do a good job of it, as they did at a recent rehearsal. You know they must have been something in their day.
Their voices may occasionally tremble and a few get rattled or forget their lines, but who doesn't? They've got the glint in the eye, the smiles, the enthusiasm. They're better than most of us could ever hope to be.
"You get a wonderful sense of teamwork and you can forget yourself and be someone else," is how resident musician Carol Elledge explains the magic.
Morris has a long, proud history in Boston theater. As a youngster, he staged musicals in his Dorchester basement and had a traveling puppet opera. In the Navy, from 1942-47, he put on musicals aboard ship. While working as a window designer at Jordan Marsh, he produced musicals with The Limelighters, an amateur group, where his wife, Bea, designed costumes.
For 11 years, he ran a CYO youth theater group at St. Ann's Church in Dorchester and then directed the New Neponset Players for 17 years.
"I had the Orson Welles syndrome," he says. "I wrote the shows, acted in and directed them." Now, he is content to sit back and "see it all coming together into fruition, the satisfaction on the performers' faces."
The creative spirit carries this gentle but determined soul forward. Morris is also an accomplished artist, but theater is his first love.
"It feels wonderful to be back," he says. "It is like adrenalin. In the hospital, I thought about this often, but never expected I would be able to do this again. But God is good."
Thanks to John McDonald, 49, of Quincy for the tip. This reminds me of the 2007 documentary film, "Young at Heart." The show goes on at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Orchard Cove auditorium. It is free and open to the public. Call 781-821-0820.
Jack Morris directs seniors performing in the production Oct. 29.
Jack Morris, second from the left, and wife Bea Bennett, third from the left perform in the 1950s with the Limelighters, a theater group in Boston.