Today we share a story in our Better Together series to kick off Active Aging Week. Active Aging Week “introduces healthy lifestyles and exercise to as many older adults as possible.”
Richard is grateful to Sue Luna, a fitness director, for making a difference in his life. From his community in Menomonee Falls, Wis., he wrote in May:
“In September 2020, I moved into my apartment here at Dickson Hollow. I came from sunny Florida right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Things were shut down. After months of wandering about, winter came, and I wanted to go back to Florida. I was bored, unhappy and frustrated. I saw the wellness center and a few people working out.
“I called Sue and made an appointment for a consultation. I suffer with a severe case of COPD and needed appropriate routines. We got the doctor’s permission and Sue took over. I do believe she saved me from depression, despair and just plain unhappiness!
“Working together and with her encouragement, I wound up working out four days a week. I had goals set. I worked on them. When she noticed I was ‘out of form,’ she corrected it. I made friends at the wellness center. It was great and by the spring of 2021, I now could go outside and walk, play on the putting green and all was well – thanks to Sue Luna’s help and encouragement.”
Meet Sue, a ‘wellness coordinator’
This year Sue reached her 20-year milestone serving in our ministry. With wisdom and modesty, Sue reflected on Richard’s kind words, saying, “What we did for Richard, we would do for anyone.”
That spirit of generosity marks her career, enriching lives of older adults across Eastern Wisconsin. She not only started wellness centers in the region, but she also grew and today leads a team of fitness directors at Presbyterian Homes & Services communities
Compared to earlier times, Sue now best describes herself as a “wellness coordinator.” She explains, “I’ve been in wellness my entire career. It used to be easy to just tell people I’m a personal trainer. People get that. But it’s really so much more than that … you’re trying to create a culture, a lifestyle.
You can’t pigeon-hole yourself into the physical, because if we do, we’re going to lose people.”
Sue enjoys drawing out people’s interests based on one or more dimensions of wellness
. “For example,” she says, “I train my staff to do brain fitness exercises in all our classes.”
A “Brainy Bunch” class stimulates the brain especially. Sue recalls, “I was teaching that class weekly, and this resident, who always came in on a scooter and would have nothing to do with fitness got to know me. That’s how I got him ‘in through the back door.’”
Richard’s latest challenge – and his creative solution helping others
Richard continues, “Now we have a new challenge…,” referring to his difficulty with breathing. Two hospital stays this summer — due to pneumonia and Covid — didn’t help his COPD.
“I’m now 100% oxygen dependent, so I struggle with lung capacity and stamina,” he explains. “It’s really now about managing the oxygen and making sure I’m doing the proper techniques of breathing, sitting and walking.”
No longer able to keep up his fitness routine, Richard decided to get creative — and make life better not only for himself but also for his neighbors. With his eyes on the Dickson Hollow putting green, Richard brainstormed an innovative design on paper.
Using just 6 holes on a putting green, he “jerry rigged” a method to repeat holes. Now he and his friends could play a “9-hole golf course” two to four times a week!
The map marks tee boxes, flags and provided a scorecard for parties of one, two or four players.
Camaraderie makes a difference to his health, too. “Dickson Hollow is like a family to me,”
Richard remarked. “I never believed I’d have a group of friends like this. Unbelievable.”
Why Sue loves serving older adults at Presbyterian Homes & Services
The field of wellness has always come naturally to Sue. “For me and my family, wellness is a lifestyle. I live it. I breathe it,” she says with confidence.
But only after trial-and-error early on in her career did she discover a calling to enrich the lives of older adults. What drew her?
“In hindsight,” she reflected, “I have the most to gain. How hard is it to train a 20-year-old? You could make a few mistakes and decide not to repeat those, and yet the person would be okay. But [with older adults] you better know what you’re doing and be a bit more mindful, because this could be life changing. There’s a difference between a fall and staying fit and being able to age in place here and do what you want to do, when you want to do it, because you have the strength to do that.”
Pausing to reflect, Sue concludes, “I love what I do because I get to be in a community of people where they’re not aging, they’re living.”
About Active Aging Week at Presbyterian Homes & Services
“to provide more choices and opportunities for more older adults to live well” shapes Active Aging Week in our communities. Each day is devoted a
dimension of wellness
: physical, social, intellectual, emotional, vocational, environmental and spiritual. Teams representing fitness, rehabilitation, nutrition & culinary, spiritual care and life enrichment are providing residents with unique opportunities to discover how they can continue living well. Explore our online collection of resources for active aging
Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to join our team at www.preshomes.org/careers.
You might also be interested in:
Making a splash – Marion’s poolside ‘comeback’
A summer to remember at Lake Minnetonka Shores
FREE resources: Active Aging Week at Presbyterian Homes & Services