Every Thursday afternoon, Kate Dodds meets with a group of friends at the Retirement Village at St. Barnabas and plays Rummikub, a rummy tile game.

“We’re dedicated,” said Mrs. Dodd, 90. “It’s fun, it keeps you thinking. And it keeps your brain active.”

Experts say that living an active lifestyle is important for seniors to keep their minds and bodies healthy and sharp.

Though many believe that as a person ages a decline in health is to follow. However, plenty of older adults are living full, happy and healthy lives.

So, how does a person stay healthy with each passing year?  According to Dr. Joseph Maroon, a consultant to St. Barnabas, the key is to keep physically active, maintain a healthy, balanced diet and keep the brain active.

Dr. Maroon is a world-renowned neurosurgeon and health expert. He recommends physical exercise at least 30 minutes a day combined with a healthy diet and brain-stimulating activities.

Here are some additional tips from Dr. Maroon for those who are just starting their journey towards a healthy lifestyle:

  • According to heart disease prevention research, exercise should be hard enough to raise your heart rate to a level that adds moderate stress to the heart. This type of stress is known as the “target heart rate,” and is generally at a level where a person can still talk while exercising.
  • Incorporate Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. This can be done through food or a fish oil supplement. Did you know that about 40 percent of our brain cells are made up of Omega-3 fatty acids? These healthy fats are essential to the functioning of the body and organs.

At St. Barnabas, we promote a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally and Charles Stainton, 83, and Nancy Kramer, 86, try to take advantage of all of the activities offered at St. Barnabas to keep busy and stay active.

Mr. Stainton golfs, walks the annual St. Barnabas 5K charity race, goes on long walks and plays bocce, shuffleboard and horseshoes! Mrs. Kramer on the other hand enjoys participating in Bible study, a singing group, shopping, knitting, reading and recently joined the Silver Sneakers exercise class.

“The nice thing about St. Barnabas is the smorgasbord of activities here. You have to find your niche; you can’t do it all,” Mr. Stainton said. “You have all of these people here around you to do things with. You have to get out and participate and live life.”

A new study from the National Institutes of Health found that the most sedentary individuals (i.e. couch potatoes) are 2.5 times more likely to develop dementia than regular exercisers.

Dementia is a condition of declining mental abilities (especially memory) that affects your personality, skills (like driving a car), and verbal abilities.

Staying committed to a consistent exercise program throughout a person’s lifespan can help fight against future health problems such as heart disease and depression.

“I think you really need to stay active as long as you can, because you’ll slow down eventually,” Mrs. Kramer said.

Mr. Stainton and Mrs. Kramer aren’t the only two active residents who participate in a myriad of activities.

Just take Jane Stewart, 89, for example. Jane has lived at St. Barnabas for eight years and has served as a fill-in fitness instructor. She also enjoys playing bridge and pinochle and volunteers as an “ambassador” to welcome new residents.

“I try to participate in as much as I can here, because if you don’t use it you’ll lose it,” she said.

Another activity offered at the Retirement Village at St. Barnabas is an art class. Shirley Hauck, 84, has lived at St. Barnabas for seven years and has participated in the art class for the past two.

“This is one of the best things about St. Barnabas,” Mrs. Hauck said. “I love it.”

Walter Koch, 92, also serves as an ambassador and used to volunteer at the St. Barnabas Nursing Home, pushing wheelchairs and helping patients. He’s a mentor to new residents, answering their questions and taking them to dinner, and he enjoys ballroom dancing to music from the 1940s.

“I enjoy living here. There’s so much to choose from and it keeps you sharp and social. It makes me happy,” said Mr. Koch.

Mr. Koch also serves on the St. Barnabas food committee, meeting with other residents and the Food Services Department to discuss the menu and make suggestions for changes.

At St. Barnabas, we strive to provide our residents with the opportunity to live their best lives both physically and mentally. After all, Mr. Stainton said it best, “You only get one life, so you might as well live it to the fullest.”

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