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Read the latest article written by EPPIA members.

Strength Training For Seniors

Everywhere you go these days you hear or read about the importance of strength training for seniors. But what is it really?

Strength training is improving muscular strength by gradually increasing the ability to resist force by using weights or machines. The most important part of this definition is that their needs to be resistance and it needs to be ongoing. Just lifting a leg off the bed is not strength training. A weight needs to be added to increase strength.

What are some signs that an older adult has poor leg strength?

  • Difficulty walking including; shuffling feet, bent knees and trunk.
  • Needing a walker
  • Difficulty getting out of chairs
  • Needing help with transfers
  • Falls

How does an older adult increase strength? Leg strength training is most beneficial when completed lying flat on the bed or floor using weights. We have found that when older adults are able to lift four pounds with four specific lying down exercises their mobility and balance improves. This process takes 10 minutes and only needs to be completed two times per week.

What are the misconceptions about strength training for older adults? One common misconception is that walking, swimming, biking, climbing stairs or water aerobics are leg strengthening exercises. These are great exercises for heart health, but you must already have a certain amount of leg strength to be able to do any of those activities. Another important fact is that leg strength is not permanent. Unfortunately, people start losing strength three to five days after they stop their training exercises. As the old saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

Is strength training different for seniors and what does it involve? Seniors need specific muscles strengthened to help reduce falls, increase balance, and keep independence. People start losing strength at age 30 but the speed that we lose strength increases at age 60 – 70. The good news is you can reverse this process and get back two decades of lost strength by engaging in lower extremity strength training for at least two months!!

Is there a reason someone should not do this? We have found everyone can increase strength no matter age or diagnosis. “Research shows that many of the problems once attributed to aging such as slowing down, declining muscle strength and fatigue are actually the result of a sedentary lifestyle. 80% of the health problems once associated with aging are now thought to be preventable or postponable if person keeps fit.” Dr. Leaf: Harvard Medical School

What are the benefits to strength training?

  • Stops falls
  • Negates the need to use a walker
  • Increases independence
  • Increases confidence
  • Reduces depression
  • Increases energy

Going to a gym is a great addition to an exercise program but the machines do not target the specific muscles that prevent falls and increase balance, which is what seniors need to focus on. The help of a physical therapist that encourages strength training can streamline their exercise program so that they are getting the most efficient and maximum results. Get Strong. Stay Strong.

Nicole Rennie, PT, GCS
Founder, Owner of Senior Abilities Unlimited exclusive provider of Tandem Strength & Balance
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EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA meets five times a year to exchange information and problem solve in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA please visit our website at

To Drive Or Not To Drive?

With winter weather upon us, it is a good time for seniors to evaluate how safe they are as drivers and to consider if it is time to “retire” from driving and choose alternate transportation options. Winter driving can be hazardous at any age, and there are a few safety steps we can all take:

  • Maintain your vehicle (tires, tune up, oil change, gas, etc.).
  • Avoid driving in bad weather.
  • Wait to drive until the roads are plowed and sanded.

As we age, it is normal for our driving abilities to change. Things like medications, decreased mobility and range of motion, slower reaction time, vision, hearing, and memory affect one’s ability to be a safe driver. Because we all age differently, there is no “cut off” age that is recommended or required for one to stop driving; however, sources state that fatal crash rates rise sharply after the age of 70. In addition to the health issues noted above that can adversely affect one’s ability to drive safely, close calls and increased citations and/or trouble with the basic nuts and bolts of driving such as signaling, braking, and accelerating are indicators that it is time to evaluate one’s driving and determine how and if one can be a safe driver. Steps you can take to ensure you are safe to be behind the wheel include:

  • Talk with your doctor about medications and/or health issues you have.
  • Have your vision and hearing check regularly.
  • Take a driver refresher course through AARP, at the senior center, etc.
  • Get your driving evaluated at the Courage Center or a driving agency.

Driving for seniors may not be an “all or nothing” decision: options to increase driving safety include driving only during daylight hours, not driving on freeways or highways, and driving primarily close to home on local streets. In our culture, we tend to think of driving as a right, not as a privilege, but it is important to remember that a car is a powerful machine that we should not take for granted and that we should be concerned not only about our own safety, but the safety of others we encounter when driving.

So what do you do if you realize that it is no longer safe for you to continue driving? Many people fear the loss of independence, but one can remain independent without driving, it just might require some changes and planning. One can even consider some benefits of not driving such as reduced expenses (no more insurance, repairs, gas, etc.). You might also discover that your social circle expands as you accept offers and/or ask for rides from friends, family, neighbors and others.

Other options for not driving include:

  • Public transportation
  • Ride sharing/carpooling
  • Van (if living in a senior community)
  • Metro Mobility
  • Transportation services from home care agencies
  • Taxis
  • Walking or cycling
  • Grocery and prescription delivery services

Making the decision to drive, modify your driving habits, or stop driving is a huge step in life. Facing this decision and making the choice to be a safe driver or a non-driver can prevent you from seriously injuring or killing yourself or someone else. And that’s the bottom line.

Holly Hansen, Partner, Brilliant Moves

EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA meets five times a year to exchange information and problem solve in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA please visit our website at

Medicare Open Enrollment: What’s the Big Deal?

Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment Period (Oct 15 – Dec 7) is upon us again. So what is the big deal? Why is this time period so important to those on Medicare plans? Simply put, each year a majority of the plans have subtle changes to the premiums, the medical coverage, and most importantly, the prescription drug formularies. An annual review is essential when it comes to avoiding the dreaded “donut hole.”

For the average user, changes to coverage affect copayments and coinsurance. The changes are especially “felt” by the user during continued services and prescriptions in the form of out of pocket costs. The “bottom line” is that the amount of money you spend for health care service and prescription drugs may change during the upcoming year even if services have not increased nor decreased. For many seniors, that means changes to their fixed monthly budgets. The end result is increased out of pocket costs and possibly a change to how you receive care (possibly trying different doctors, networks or clinics).

Open Enrollment is the opportunity to review any changes and possibly prevent problems with your Medicare health care service for the next year. Despite the complexity of Medicare plans and the moving pieces, qualified agents that sell Medicare Advantage Plans, Part D Prescription Drug Plans, and Medigap policies should be well versed in any changes and offer free reviews to ensure your plan is still the best fit for you. If you discover that the current plan is not your best option for the year, a change can be made quickly and effortlessly.

Which type of meeting should I attend and with which provider?

Each provider offers a variety of times and locations for General Medicare Enrollment informational meetings. The same providers offer individual and group product presentations that will feature all of the plans being offered next year within their portfolio. There are other nonprofit services and insurance brokers who are appointed with all Medicare providers and therefore can explain every plan at once. Researching new plans is an investment of time. To ensure that you get the best plan for your needs, it is important that your agent is knowledgeable about all of the plans and is unbiased concerning specific health care providers.

Should I Research Online or Not?

Another research option is to go directly online to where you can enter your prescription drugs and find the best plans for the coming year. If you are not technology savvy, however, this method often confuses more than helps. It will provide options for health care plans with prescription drug plans, without drug plans, and stand-alone prescription drug plans. Most people will want to select Medicare health care plans with prescription drug plans. You can also phone them directly but be prepared for long hold times.

Medicare Rules to Keep in Mind

Remember, if you make a change to your coverage during Open Enrollment, the plan will not take effect until January 1, 2015. You may select multiple plans during Open Enrollment but the final plan received by Medicare will be the one that will be in force in 2015. If you have a Medigap plan you can always change your Part D without affecting your Medigap coverage. If you have prescription drug coverage through the VA, you may continue to receive your prescriptions from the VA. Those with VA coverage may want to carry a Medigap or Medicare Advantage Plan without a prescription drug plan.

Author Peter Hallberg  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA meets five times a year to exchange information and problem solve in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA please visit our website at

Residential Care Homes

Although the concept of residential care has been around the state of Minnesota since the 1990’s one often asks what residential care is and how is it different from a traditional assisted living.

Part of the confusion lies in the fact that most residential care homes are licensed as assisted living but how and where we provide our care makes all the difference in the world. Generally speaking, the homes are free-standing, single-family homes located in residential neighborhoods. Simply put, we provide high quality care in real homes in established communities. This gives individuals a place to age within their own community.

Residential care homes are licensed and monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health. Most residential care homes are privately owned and managed by a 1-2 person team dedicated to knowing you and your family. On average, homes house between 4-12 residents resulting in a low caregiver to resident ratio. This allows for more individualized care and for close bonds to form between caregivers and residents. Homes are staffed with qualified awake caregivers 24/7. Homes have access to an RN and owners of the homes are often on site. Owners serve as the point person, streamlining communication with families and providers. Activities are provided and individual routines are respected.

The small number of residents creates an intimate family-like environment. It also allows homes to specialize in types of care. Homes may specifically serve those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and 50-70 year olds with other types of cognitive or physical disabilities. Other homes may have a mixed population of care needs. Whatever the case may be, residential care homes are warm and inviting, staffed by competent individuals.

Staff are competent and compassionate individuals who treat residents like their own family members. Staff receive ongoing training to allow for the best delivery of service. Families and residents find comfort in this and real bonds are developed. Staff, residents and visitors naturally become a family unit. Conversation will flow with and among all due to the nature of the intimate setting.

Transitioning from one’s home to a facility is difficult, but moving to a residential care home allows for minimal disruption because it is a one-time move. Homes adapt themselves to meet the needs of the residents and work with other service providers to enable the individual to remain within the care home. Individualized care plans are developed with the family and/or resident. Care is modified to meet the changing needs of the residents. When the time comes, hospice is called to provide support through the end of life.

Ask yourself-Would your loved one’s current housing situation:

  • Adapt the environment to meet the needs of one resident?
  • Develop a plan to help residents with behaviors rather than hospitalize or medicate them?
  • Have family sleep over at the end of life?
  • Allow resident to iron, laundry, set tables?
  • Recognize them as an individual who comes with a past that was enriching?
  • Allow a husband and wife to live together regardless of care levels?
  • Have a staff person escort them to the Emergency Room?
  • Move in with their beloved pet?
  • Modify one’s care to support end of life, thus allowing them to remain in the home?
  • Discuss with family and doctor’s about avoiding hospitalizations and being treated at the home?

In the end, we are smaller, more intimate and offer individualized care through the end of life in a real home. All of this is managed by a one or two person management team that really knows your family member and are available 24/7 to meet the needs of families and residents. Visit to learn more.

Christine Rowland, MSW Pioneer Estates
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Jenny Morgan, RN Breck Homes
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Tina Haugstad RN Nurturing Care
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EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA meets five times a year to exchange information and problem solve in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA please visit our website at

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