Stimulating the Mind to Decrease Senior Stress

BY AMANDA MOSES

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Within the lower level of the Brooklyn Sports Club (BSC), a dozen seniors follow this exercise with their hands clasped together in prayer position standing on one foot while under the guidance of BSC instructor, Yoga Barry. Unlike typical yoga classes, this particular lesson is catered to an older adult’s physique. The chair serves as the balancer for seniors to stretch without the fear of falling. Chair Yoga is one of many activities taught at the JASA Senior Center (courtesy of BSC’s instructors) on leading a healthy, less stressful life.

senior-page-15-sep-9-2016Stress, anxiety and depression affects everyone despite our different ages and circumstances. Walking to the grocery store, finding the keys to your apartment or trying to pick up a fallen item all seem like menial tasks, but for seniors these situations can be very difficult, causing bodily strain and stress. JASA Director Angela Blyakher has created a schedule of classes to help seniors find balance in their lives. Whether the seniors have an instructor, or follow an exercise DVD, Blyakher’s goal is to keep them active.

Myrna Isaacs says that when she is doing yoga her body and mind feel at ease. “I come to JASA about three times a week, where I can color, paint, do chair yoga and tai chi. All of these programs are therapeutic for me because I let everything I am thinking about go, and I live in the moment,” Isaacs said.

“In addition to cardiorespiratory endurance (aerobic) activity, older adults can benefit from musclestrengthening activities. Stronger muscles help reduce the risk of falling and improve the ability to perform the routine tasks of daily life,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Falling is one of the most common reasons seniors are forced to enter rehabilitation centers, and sometimes nursing homes.

“I like to keep active. My body feels better when I do. It’s like that saying, ‘If you don’t move it, you lose it.’ When I stay active my arthritis doesn’t hurt as much versus staying at home sitting down and complaining about the pain,” said Rafael Viera, who attends many of the exercise and art classes available at JASA.

One of Viera’s favorite activities, aside from Zumba, is coloring with her friends. Some may feel that coloring is only for children, but studies by the Assisted Living Federation of America and American Art Therapy Association have found that adult coloring can improve communication, social, cognitive, and motor skills. It allows older adults to cast aside their stress about chronic diseases, such as arthritis, or other conditions that are affecting their lives.

Augusto Baez has arthritis in his hands, and simple tasks such as turning a door knob can be painful. However, this pain seems to disappear as he immerses himself within the world of coloring. Every black and white picture he is given is examined under a critical eye, while he determines which colors best suit the subject matter. His favorite things to color are animals, especially lions.

color-senior-page-15-sept-9-2016The coloring class has only existed for a few months, but it is one of the most popular. JASA President Ruth Horowitz created the class after she became interested in a coloring book she found at a dollar store. Horowitz says that herself, along with participating seniors, enjoy the creativity, coordination and feeling of accomplishment. She finds that the simple act of coloring is a destressor.

For Catherine Lewis, these simple activities distract from sad or depressing situations. “Life is short, we need appreciate and enjoy ourselves,” Lewis said. When she colors, she imagines the subject’s fantasy world. Lewis found this therapeutic activity to be a helpful distraction during the anniversary of her husband’s death. “It’s been several years, but I kept my mind busy and that helped a lot.”

Photos: Amanda Moses