At Prestige Senior Living, wellness is at the heart of everything we do. Each of our communities has a wellness coach who helps our seniors stay fit – whether it’s through our industry-leading exercise programs or even assisting with activities, our wellness coaches are dedicated to helping our residents enjoy longevity and good health.
One of those wellness coaches is Elicia Stewart, who has been with Prestige for a year and a half. She serves as the wellness coach at Prestige Assisted Living Marysville, Prestige Assisted Living at Oroville, and conducts Ageless Grace® classes via Zoom for Prestige Assisted Living at Green Valley.
We recently caught up with her to do a Q+A on her role, the importance of fitness for seniors, Prestige’s fitness offerings and how her own mother learned the importance of fitness through Prestige’s programming.
What drew you to working with seniors?
Elicia Stewart: “I just felt like I was kind of drawn towards that niche. I’ve also done prenatal and I’ve worked with active duty military, but my heart really resonated with retirees because I knew how much their body had been stressed. And I could see the benefits right away in their everyday living with just movement and things like fall prevention, quality of life and being able to maintain your independence. And so naturally that was a great fit with Prestige because here at our assisted living and dementia care, all of our areas, we promote and we encourage the activity and the ability to maintain what you can do.”
When someone moves into a Prestige community, they undergo a physical assessment. Can you walk us through what that looks like?
ES: “As a wellness coach, I’m looking at fall prevention, fall prevention, fall prevention. We preach it, we teach it and we live it here. We want to make sure that you’re safe here, and that’s affected by external and internal things: medications, it could be hearing or sight impairment. It could be a hip surgery or an injury that you had 20 years or 30 years ago.
The assessment starts with just getting to know the person. I don’t just jump right in and say, ‘I’m going to do this’. I’m going to get to know you, find out how you spend your time, what you do on a regular basis, how your day looks, and then talk to you about the benefits of what I do and why I’m assessing. I think coming to them one-on-one and talking to a person as opposed to talking at them makes a big difference in their response and their desire to listen to what I have say and to participate in it because it’s by choice.”
Once someone finishes their assessment and enters our fitness program, what is available to them?
ES: “I love our programming…Our Energize Exercise program has three categories: Activate, Invigorate and Energize. We have seated and standing exercise classes specifically designed to help with fall prevention. So essentially everything that we do in those classes provides either flexibility, mobility, flexion of the spine, flexion of the ankle, of the wrist, all the different joints that you need to stay upright and help with fall prevention. It’s amazing how you can do seated exercises and still get what you need for your body to maintain, and for some regain, something that they have lost from either a stroke or different things.
There is a brain and body connection, so as we do the exercise and physically exert ourselves, it actually helps our brain. And we do that in tandem with our Mind Masters program, which is specifically designed exercises for our brain to help retain and to restore. And it’s been proven now that neuroplasticity can be gained so that the brain can actually add or create new connections through different exercises that we provide.”
And then what about the actual fall reduction classes?
ES: “As we age our reactionary time is lessened, it’s slower…And so my job doesn’t just start with an exercise class, I’m also checking our residents’ homes to see if there’s tripping hazards and how we can better help them provide a safe environment. So that safe environment extends beyond our classroom of exercise. It extends throughout our community. And so those exercises deal specifically with balance and with flexibility and mobility, maintaining things that you have and strengthening that reactionary time. That brain-to-body reactionary time is actually enhanced by our other programs like Mind Masters as well.”
And last but not least, there’s Ageless Grace® – what are those classes like?
ES: “A lot of times to start at Ageless Grace® classes, I have to explain, I need you to let everything go, let your inhibitions go, we’re going to have fun. This is meant not to necessarily be something that you’re going to be an expert at, because if we were the expert, then the brain already knows what to expect. The whole point of Ageless Grace® is to actually challenge yourself.
Every single class is different and it really is a great way to use different senses. You have to visualize, you have to think, and then you’re going to respond. And in a chair it’s amazing, just in a chair accommodating the different activities that you would do standing creates a challenge that you can meet. And when you do it, it allows your brain to work more efficiently and create just an awesome class.
Prestige’s programs really hit home for you recently when your mother needed respite care after a procedure and spent a week at a Prestige community. What was that like for her, and for you?
ES: “She had cataract surgery and had a fall. And the circumstances around that really scared me. I said, ‘Mom, we need some help until you get yourself back on your feet, until we get some things in place at home. How would you feel about coming to where I work? You’ve always asked what I do.’ And she said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ So we did it for a week, and she loved it. She thought she was on vacation. Her meals were planned. She loved the food. She met so many friends.
And I can’t tell you how much it was a blessing to me to see her respond so well. I felt like her healing happened much quicker. She was so appreciative of not having to worry about medications, not having to worry about her meals, getting assistance because of the fall with showering and different things of that nature. Those aren’t things that she was accustomed necessarily to having, but during her recovery, they were integral in helping her regain her independence.
I felt at peace and I was very confident in knowing that she was taken care of, and to see her respond so well to this was amazing. I can’t speak enough about how that touched me and how it taught me. And from now from this point forward I will be reminding people, hey, don’t just look at assisted living for that last moment, don’t wait until you have to. We’re not your grandma’s nursing home. I would rather my mom enjoy it. I would rather our residents be able to enjoy all that we have to offer than to wait until the last minute. To me that was just a 180 from my thinking and she’s going to have the other eye done and she’s coming back in and it’s by choice, but for both of us, I know that she’ll be taken care of. And we’re going to do it before the fall. We’re not going to wait for an accident to happen.”