Debbie Hommel's A.D. Tips
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by Debbie Hommel, BA, ACC, CTRS, Executive Director of DH Special Services
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Executive Director
DH Special Services
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, ACC,
CTRS, is the Executive
Director of DH Special
Services. She is a Certified
Activity Consultant on State
and National level, with over
twenty-seven years of
experience in providing direct
care and consultation to long
term care, medical day care,
assisted living, and ICF/MR
facilities throughout New
Jersey, New York, Maryland,
and Pennsylvania. She is an
experienced trainer and
workshop presenter,
conducting a variety of
seminars throughout the
Tri-State area for the Activity
Professional, Administrator,
and allied healthcare
professional. Debbie Hommel
is an active member of Activity
Professional Associations on
State and National levels. She
is ACC certified through the
NCCAP. She is a founding
member of the New Jersey
Activity Professionals'
Association, serving terms as
Vice President and President.
She received the Weidner
Lifetime Achievement Award
in 1994 and the Monmouth &
Ocean County Activity
Professionals Life
Achievement Award in 1999.
Let Debbie answer your
Activity Questions
Providing Internet Resources
for Activity Professionals
in Long Term Care Settings

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Let’s Get Physical :
Exercise and the Elderly
By Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

I am a firm believer in the old adage “If you don’t use it, you lose it” and nothing is closer
to the truth when disusing physical wellbeing and health.  Our bodies are made to be
active and inactivity can provoke physical decline and cause existing conditions to
worsen.  Muscle atrophy can contribute to increased incidents of injury; a weakened
immune system makes the individual prone to infections; and a variety of other
diseases are associated with a sedentary lifestyle.  

The elderly resident is often not interested in “exercise”, saying they are too old, too
tired, to achy or just plain not interested.  They may agree to come to the program but
then do not participate.  How does the activity professional generate interest in exercise
and movement programs?
   Music- The right music can change the mood of a room in an instant.  People sit
taller, feet start tapping and hands start moving.  Finding the right music is an
experiment.  We should not fall into the “what is appropriate for the elderly” trap and play
Mitch Miller and Big Band every day.  Music from the 50’s 60’s 70’s and today can be
appropriate if used in the right manner.  For exercise music, we are looking for the right
beat – not too fast and not to slow.  Try the music once and if the residents respond
well, then you have appropriate music.  
   Props – People tend to move more when they have things in their hands to wave
around.  Feather dusters, scarves, dowels with ribbon to match the season, dry cleaner
tubes (from the pants and sweater hangers) decorated with ribbons and glitz, and any
number of shaker type things you can find at the dollar store will work.  The props can
be introduced seasonally, using colors and shapes associated with theme, to add to
the program.
   Balloons – If there are no latex allergies or balloon phobias in the room, these work
great as exercise props.  Holding the balloon with two hands and doing various
movements, or using the balloon as a prop is very visual for the group.  Placing the
balloon on the floor and having the resident put their foot on it and move it around is
good leg exercises.  There are a lot of creative movements using the balloon.  
   Imagery – Creating exercises which mimic familiar movements is fun and
motivating.  It is effective to coordinate them with seasonal events such as autumn and
do movements associated with autumn actions such as fall cleaning, raking leaves,
making apple pie and similar tasks.  
   Take turns – Involve the residents in leading the exercise group.  Have each person
do a movement of their choice and the rest follow suit.  Have one resident be the leader
for the day and lead the whole group.  
   Call it something else – When most people hear “exercise” they groan and start
thinking of ways to get out of the program.  Calling the program an alternate name
sometimes prevents that initial reaction.  Senorcise, Sittercise, Stretch and Sway,
Movement and Music, Flexercise, Get Fit while you Sit, Nice-N-Easy, Afternoon Stretch,
Let’s Get Physical, and Vitality Group are some ideas.  Naming the group after the
activity person is a different approach such as “Debbie’s Dance Steps” or “Jumping
with Joe”.  
Sneak physical movement into daily programs - There are countless active games and
props which can be found in the catalogs we receive monthly.  Textured balls, tossing
games, target games, and games from the past are often popular with the right
equipment.  Changing the equipment for the holidays is an interesting approach.  For
example, during March – the tossing activity can be tossing gold coins into a pot of
gold.    When setting supplies and materials on the table, set them a little bit away from
the resident so they have to reach - as this is exercise.  
   Wii – This new craze has met with mixed results in long term care facilities.  It seems
the higher functioning residents are able to figure it out which provides them with great
exercise opportunities.  
   Conductorcise – This is an interesting exercise program founded by David Dworkin,
orchestra conductor.  He has combined his love of music with conducting movements
into an exhilarating exercise program.  
   Yomenco is another specialized dance movement group designed for the elderly in
long term care facilities.  It is a motivational combination of yoga therapy, Tai-chi, dance
therapy, music therapy, humor therapy, meditation and self-love.

“You have to work at living, because dying is easy.”
Jack LaLanne

Links for Physical Activity and the Elderly