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Seniors at Blakehurst Senior Living Stay Fit and Fabulous

Blakehurst senior living community in Towson, Maryland, has been a premier location for seniors to age in place for over 24 years. Located just a few miles from the thriving city of Baltimore, Blakehurst offers seniors a life with a high standard of living, a focus on wellness and an engaged lifestyle.

Traditional and Specialty Offerings

Blakehurst’s traditional group fitness classes occur in the morning and include such offerings as the higher-level Stretch & Strengthen, the mid-level muscle tone class, and balanced yoga, which is a mix between chair and traditional standing yoga.

“What residents at Blakehurst really like about the fitness program is that they have things they can count on – the regular classes that run five days a week at the same time and place and in the same format,” said Blakehurst Wellness Coordinator Kimberlee Swift. “But we work in new exercises and moves to each class to keep things interesting and shake things up a bit.” Attendance numbers as well as residents’ fitness levels have improved, according to Kimberlee. “Their bodies are not getting stagnant…it helps keep that mind-body connection that is so important for aging adults.”

The most popular fitness program at Blakehurst is the Stretch & Strengthen program, which averages from 30-35 participants on any given Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, according to Kimberlee. “With our current resident count at 336, that means we are engaging 10 percent of the population in that one class alone, which is terrific.”

Each afternoon, Blakehurst puts a unique spin on things with “specialty classes” that change every month in accordance with a theme. July’s focus was on summertime, beach-themed programs, including a 30-minute Barefoot Balance class that focused on foot and ankle flexibility and the proprioceptive system.

May was Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis Awareness Month, so Blakehurst’s fitness team offered both land and water “bone-builders” classes focused specifically on strengthening the large muscles of the body. June celebrated Men’s Health Week with men-specific exercise classes, strength training, circuit classes, a putting competition, and even and end-of-month cookout.

New Space Brings More Opportunities

Kimberlee and her two fitness instructors, Ethan Barrett and Mary Fox, as well as the residents, are excited to welcome a new, larger gym space this August. Both the larger size and the location, at the rear of Chestnut Green Health Center, Blakehurst’s skilled nursing and assisted living facility, will allow more residents to participate in fitness programs.

While the existing space limits class size, the new gym will have a dedicated group exercise room. Kimberlee plans to add a few more classes and re-launch the specialty classes with new names, to encourage more people to try them out.

Boosting Senior Fitness Levels

Each fitness class at Blakehurst targets all areas of the body. “In our Stretch & Strengthen class, for instance, we have a balance component, a cardio component, we try to move in all four directions in order to engage the whole body. Then when we sit down, we try to do upper body, lower body, abdominals, stretching.” Specialty classes tend to concentrate on one aspect of health that the seniors want to try and improve, said Kimberlee.

Blakehurst incorporates balance programming into all of its classes, but also encourages residents to move and practice what they’ve learned on a daily basis. “We try to educate residents that balance classes are terrific, but you need to include walking, concentrated strength training, etc., on a daily basis, or you’ll notice your balance starting to decline.”

Aside from the traditional reasons for residents to exercise, such as reducing fall risks, helping clothes fit better, and being able to play with grandchildren, Kimberlee said the top benefit of staying fit is that it improves overall wellness. “It improves mental acuity, outlook on life, emotional wellness, ability to be social. The seniors coming to our classes are the ones going out to dinner, going on trips, participating in a lot of other programming here, and volunteering on committees. They are aging gracefully and have fewer health concerns, and they are also happier and more engaged. Being fit helps you with a lot of other aspects of your life in a senior living community.”

Doing It For Others

Residents at Blakehurst are very welcoming to new residents, said Kimberlee. “They will sit next to them, show them equipment, invite them to dinner or coffee…everybody is included and they tend to look out for each other. If someone doesn’t come to class for a few days, they will give them a call or check in on them. And we have a policy of needing three people in order to hold a class. This gives residents a reason to come not only for themselves but to assure their neighbor is able to do something that is important to them.”

Kimberlee truly enjoys being able to partner with other departments and engage with residents through other programs. “I think to be successful in fitness programming at a senior living community, you have to be engaged in things other than just fitness. It allows residents to see you in a different light – they’ll be able to form a relationship with you in a way that is comfortable for them. And while we’re starting to see a lot more baby boomers come in – who are familiar with fitness – the older generation, especially women, are not used to regular fitness and some are intimidated by coming to the gym and doing an exercise program. By offering them a chance to see me in a different light, outside of fitness, it has really allowed me to be successful here.”

To find out more about what life as an engaged senior is like at Blakehurst senior living community, get in touch with us at 410-870-7817.