Rehab Insights is a weekly blog written by Burke Rehabilitation professionals to offer practical information for patients, families and the community. Its goal is to educate the reader on relevant topics in rehabilitation, general health and wellness.

How Burke Supports Healthy Aging

August 15, 2017

During the next three decades, the number of Americans over age 65 will double, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means 88.5 million people–about one in five Americans–will be senior citizens.

These swelling ranks are bringing the realities of aging to the forefront, and more attention than ever is focused on keeping people healthier longer. In fact, September is Healthy Aging Month.

As a dedicated player in the community, Burke offers several programs to help seniors age with grace and independence, including:

  • Home Safety Assessments
  • Driver Evaluations
  • Tailored Fitness Programs

Good health begins at home

People who have been living in the same house or apartment for many years are comfortable with the way things are. Unfortunately, that coffee table leg you always avoided may not be as easy to step over as you age and have less agility.  “Sometimes people don’t realize they can no longer adapt as easily, and those are the things we look for in a Home Assessment,” says Andrea Sullivan, Burke’s Supervisor of Outpatient Occupational Therapy (OT).

In a Home Assessment, an occupational therapist “walks through” a person’s typical daily routine with her, analyzing how she interacts with the environment while performing daily tasks. This involves assessing the person’s balance, coordination, endurance, safety awareness, strength, attention, problem solving, vision, and communication, as well as observing, for example, whether a loose carpet has become an obstacle, or whether a motion-detecting nightlight could avert a fall on a nocturnal trip to the bathroom.

The outcome of this home visit is a written set of recommendations to make the home safer to live in. Sometimes, structural changes are indicated, but most often, fixes are inexpensive, like applying double-sided tape to a loose carpet. The OT department tries to recommend the easiest and safest way to make adaptations, and can even recommend a local repairmen if needed.

Home Assessments can also be performed to ‘safety proof’ homes where dementia patients live, which can give their caregivers greater peace of mind. 

For more info on the program, click here.

Safe driving at any age
Next to living in one’s own home, the independence of driving a car is highly valued by people of all ages. Contrary to some perceptions, older people are not involved in the most traffic fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But it is a fact that advancing age can affect important driving skills, such as vision and hearing acuity, reaction times, and problem-solving ability.

Burke’s Occupational Therapy department performs more than 500 driver evaluations annually at the White Plains campus and Somers satellite location. Evaluations are done in two parts:

  • An in-clinic assessment of a driver’s physical motor skills, gas-brake reactions, vision, perception and spatial acuity, cognition and ability to divide one’s attention.
  • An on-road evaluation by a certified driving instructor.

A written report of these assessments is provided to the driver, and to his/her physician.

Burke’s Driver Assessment program is available to residents of Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, and Duchess counties, as well as Long Island, Manhattan and Fairfield County, Connecticut.

For more information on the program, click here.

Fitness is as fitness does 
The ability to function safely in your home and while driving is impacted by overall physical fitness. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control, only 28 to 34 percent of people over age 65 engage in regular, planned physical activity.

The Burke Adult Fitness Center is trying to reverse that trend in the community.

The center, which was designed for adults over the age of 40, includes programs for younger graduates of Burke’s rehabilitation programs, but the average age of members is 79. In fact, the oldest participant, who is 96, exercises at the center for an hour and a half, several times a week!

The top health gains of regular, structured exercise include:

  • Improved bone health
  • Reduced blood pressure and resting heart rate
  • Increased awareness of where your body is in space
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased flexibility

These health gains add up to better quality of life because they are associated with better mobility, fewer falls and fractures and better cardiac health. Many studies also cite better digestion, improved sleep quality, reduced anxiety and depression and improved immunity with physical fitness.

All Fitness Center participants undergo a thorough orientation process, where their individual fitness needs are evaluated (including their physician’s referral form). The staff evaluates time frames required to meet a person’s fitness goals and outlines a program and the commitment needed to achieve them. 

Each person’s base line recordings (blood pressure, heart rates, weight) are entered into a specially designed computer system, ActiveLinxx, along with the entire exercise program. This allows the participant to be independent while in the gym, and enables the staff to monitor each person’s progress over time.

The Burke Fitness center is unique in its ability to cater to “complex individuals,” who may have contraindications to exercise movements or intensity. The Center’s Fit for Life program is adaptive to an individual’s condition (perhaps a pulmonary issue, a history of Stroke, or another physical challenge).

According to Kathryn Siegel, Burke’s Director of Community Health and Wellness, “Fit for Life classes are an exercising  ‘support group,’ where people are focused on the same objective.” She adds that “Socialization is key to healthy aging, and the Center provides a safe and supportive environment for that.”

For more information on the program, click here.


-- Carol Vartuli 

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Burke's Rehab Insights blog is intended to provide general information about rehabilitation and other health care topics. It should not take the place of medical care. Burke staff cannot comment on individual medical cases or give medical advice.

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