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ICAA names the winners of its 2009 Innovators Awards

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Award honors programs and products that support wellness for adults ages 50-plus

VANCOUVER--The International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), an association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry, is pleased to announce the recipients of the Seventh Annual ICAA Innovators Awards, which recognize creativity and excellence in active-aging programs and products. The award-winning offerings below target any or all of the six dimensions of wellness—namely, emotional, vocational, physical, spiritual, intellectual and social wellness. The 2009 Innovators are:

  • EngAGE by The Garlands (The Garlands of Barrington, Barrington, Illinois)
  • 100 Ways to Wellness (Kisco Senior Living—Heritage Woods, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Abbotswood at Irving Park, Greensboro, North
  • Carolina; and Heritage Greens, Greensboro, North Carolina)
  • Escape to Paris Challenge (Sunnyside Communities, Harrisonburg, Virginia)
  • Get Fit For Space (Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)
  • The American Century (Classic Residence by Hyatt, Chicago, Illinois)

ICAA also selected CogniFit Personal Coach as this year’s Equipment Innovator, an awards category that recognizes North America’s most creative product for active older adults. CogniFit Ltd., headquartered in Yoqneam Ilit, Israel, created this online brain fitness program.

“In the active-aging industry, we understand the profound impact that the right opportunities, environments and attitudes can have on the health and well-being of older adults,” says ICAA’s founder and CEO, Colin Milner. “As a result, our industry continues to lead the way in developing programs and products that support healthier, more vital aging. This year’s ICAA award recipients exemplify this drive for innovative solutions,” Milner states. “These offerings have challenged, encouraged and engaged older adults in different dimensions of wellness, enriching their lives and advancing a more positive view of aging. On behalf of ICAA, I congratulate the organizations and individuals who created these offerings and thank everyone who entered this year’s awards competition.”

The ICAA award-winners will each receive a crystal award of recognition. In addition, the association will publish in-depth profiles of individual recipients in its bimonthly Journal on Active Aging throughout 2010. In the meantime, brief profiles of the 2009 ICAA Innovators are available below:

EngAGE by The Garlands—The Garlands of Barrington, Barrington, Illinois
Located in Chicago’s northwestern suburbs, The Garlands of Barrington continuing care retirement community supports active aging through its EngAGE program. EngAGE provides opportunities in the six dimensions of wellness, with a variety of choices and options offered to address the individuality of residents—their different needs and interests, abilities, participation levels, and ways of learning/experiencing things. The wellness program aims to engage residents in wellness, a forward-thinking approach “born of the realization that all the well-planned, thoughtfully executed and therapeutically beneficial programming in the world is meaningless if people choose not to participate,” says Jill Lund, The Garlands’ director of activities. Staff strive to tap residents’ unique attributes and to tailor communication about programs and their personal connection with these older individuals to relate to them in “the most engaging way.” Strategies involve such things as relationship-building tactics, which include buddy programs, individual fitness training and assessment, volunteer outreach, and staff ambassadors. “By employing these one-on-one personal relationship strategies,” Lund observes, participation levels “have increased exponentially.” Also key to the program’s success are the integration of offerings under the EngAGE umbrella, which provides higher visibility, and strategic partnerships with outside community groups.

100 Ways to Wellness—Kisco Senior Living (Heritage Woods, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Abbotswood at Irving Park, Greensboro, North Carolina; and Heritage Greens, Greensboro, North Carolina)
In North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad Region, three Kisco Senior Living communities recently collaborated on a wellness program that inspired participants to be active and engaged and to try new things. Home to about 530 older adults in total, Heritage Woods, Abbotswood at Irving Park and Heritage Greens—like other Kisco communities—have adopted the organization’s multidimensional, whole-person wellness initiative called The Art of Living Well. The wellness directors at the three North Carolina communities decided to address “living well” by developing 100 Ways to Wellness, a program also aimed at dispelling the myth that older adults cannot learn anything new. The trio created a booklet of 100 wellness tasks, then challenged residents, family members and staff in their communities to do as many tasks as possible within six months. “Dare to Make a Change,” the program’s tagline, urged participants to step outside their comfort zones. And step outside they did, completing simple tasks (“Invite your neighbor over for coffee”) and those that were more demanding (“Write your congressman about an issue that concerns you”). Reinforcing the message that it’s never too old to explore and accomplish things, the program’s final task asked participants to reflect on the overall experience and to share its meaning for them.

Escape to Paris Challenge—Sunnyside Communities, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Adding life to years is the mission of Sunnyside, a continuing care retirement community situated in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Among its features, Sunnyside offers a fully equipped wellness/fitness facility with an indoor pool and whirlpool, billed as “an avenue to nurture … mind, body and spirit.” Each January, the Sunnyside Wellness Center holds an open house and a motivational challenge. The goal of these challenges is to “encourage, educate and motivate residents to sustain a better quality of life,” comments Sunnyside’s wellness director, Annie Wagner Shaffer. By choosing exciting challenge themes, wellness staff boost resident interest and participation, while ensuring the program appeals to both newcomers and regular participants. In 2009, Sunnyside residents were invited to Escape to Paris on a “virtual vacation” that offered something for everyone. Fun décor “replicated” the famed Champs Élysées, says Shaffer, while displays provided information on wellness offerings and French-related topics. During the weeklong open house, residents experienced dance and musical performances, and attended French culinary, art and language classes—some taught by retired professors from Sunnyside. A six-week physical challenge involved exercising to “climb” the Eiffel Tower. Participants who reached the top were entered into a drawing, with prize winners announced at an end-of-challenge party.

Get Fit For Space—Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Canada’s Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA) works to “enhance care for older adults through research and training partnerships.” The institute “attracts research projects to ‘living research environments’ within long-term care and retirement communities,” concentrating on practice-relevant research. One of RIA’s researchers leads the team doing physiological measurements on the Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk, who recently returned from his mission onboard the International Space Station. Time spent in space accelerates aging, explains RIA’s executive director, Michael Sharratt. The primary “countermeasure” is physical activity, which is relevant to our aging population, he adds. To motivate residents of its eight research communities, RIA joined the Canadian Space Agency in 2009 in a program called Get Fit For Space. Inspired by Thirsk’s mission, Get Fit For Space challenges Canadians to accumulate 340 kilometers in physical activity in six months—the distance to the International Space Station. RIA enrolled as many of the 3,000 residents in its communities as possible by focusing on “every step counts,” allowing everyone to contribute to the collective challenge. To maintain motivation, the project was divided into four phases, ending in October. During the program, residents also communicated with Thirsk, and RIA hopes to arrange the astronaut’s visit to one of its communities now he has returned to Earth.

The American Century—Classic Residence by Hyatt, Chicago, Illinois
With 20 senior living communities in 11 states, Chicago-based Classic Residence by Hyatt “is dedicated to providing quality environments, services and programs to enrich the lives of older adults.” The company strives to develop lifestyle programs that enhance resident well-being across all the dimensions of wellness, and at every level of care—from independent living through skilled nursing. In 2009, Classic Residence introduced a new offering designed to promote social, emotional and intellectual wellness, called The American Century. Through this “series of multilevel, multimedia and multisensory programs,” members of the Greatest Generation “revisit and celebrate both the historical and popular experiences and innovations of the 20th century, decade-by-decade,” states Julie Stevens, director of lifestyle enrichment at Classic Residence. Residents have opportunities to reminisce together and to delve into those things that defined each decade. Besides innovations, areas explored in the program include food, music, fashion, politics, sports, popular culture, arts, and entertainment. Individuals can join group discussions about historical events, try foods prepared by community chefs, listen to music, and view images and props from each bygone era. Through these specific year-round activities, residents can “explore and appreciate the role each has played in The American Century,” Stevens concludes.

ICAA Equipment Innovator

CogniFit Personal Coach—CogniFit Ltd., Yoqneam Ilit, Israel
Founded in 1999 by cognitive psychologist Shlomo Breznitz, PhD, CogniFit offers personalized brain fitness software programs to assess, train and improve the cognitive and psychomotor skills needed for daily life. CogniFit Personal Coach, the company’s latest offering, is an online program intended “to slow down and counteract” aging-related cognitive decline. This program was designed to meet the needs of older adults in several ways, according to CogniFit CEO Amichai Bar Nir. “It begins with a comprehensive baseline assessment of 14 cognitive abilities that are most affected by aging,” he says—including memory, attention, perception and coordination. Using the data gleaned, a training program is created, which is “geared to the unique abilities and needs” of the user. The company’s Individualized Training System technology “adjusts training tasks to reflect the progress and improvement of each user,” Bar Nir continues, so training is never too easy or too difficult. Sessions last just 20 minutes per day, three times per week, and users receive regular feedback to keep them motivated. Importantly, CogniFit Personal Coach is “user friendly, easy to understand, and designed with an accessible and appealing interface,” he adds, so older adults can use the program even if they are less familiar with computers.

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About the ICAA Innovators Awards program
Launched in 2003, the ICAA Innovators Awards program honors excellence and creativity in the active-aging industry. By recognizing organizations that have created cutting-edge physical activity and wellness programs and products, ICAA highlights these innovative solutions for industry leaders and governmental organizations to learn from. Award-winners work on inspiring new directions in older-adult wellness. They not only give us a glimpse into the trends shaping the future of older-adult health and wellness, they also give us hope that it is possible to solve the inactivity problem.

About the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA)
ICAA, a professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry, supports professionals who develop wellness facilities, programs and services for adults over 50. The association is focused on active aging—an approach to aging that helps older adults live life as fully as possible within all dimensions of wellness—and provides its members with education, information, resources and tools. As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies, including the US Administration on Aging, the National Institute on Aging (one of the US National Institutes of Health), the US Department of Health and Human Services, Canada’s Special Senate Committee on Aging, and the British Columbia ministries of Health, and Healthy Living and Sport.

For interviews please contact:

Contact: Colin Milner, CEO, ICAA
Toll-free: 1-866-335-9777 (North America)
Telephone: 604-734-4466; cell: 604-763-4595

Contact: Marilynn Larkin
Communications Director, ICAA

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