It’s the proportion of liquids you drink, not the volume, that’s important

Water was the hands-down winner when nutrition experts collaborated to determine which beverage provides the greatest health benefits. The six U.S. researchers of the Independent Beverage Guidance Panel ranked beverages into six levels based on calories, energy and nutrients, and evidence for positive and negative effects on health.

An overview of the results, published on Harvard’s School of Public Health website, names water’s major contenders for health benefits and highlights important nutritional tidbits, including the fact that not everyone needs to drink eight glasses of water a day.

Level 1: Water

This should be your primary go-to for rehydrating your body to restore fluids lost through burning calories, breathing, sweating, and removal of waste. A number of factors help define each individual’s hydration needs: quantity of food eaten, weather and activity level.

Most people will get 80 percent of their water by drinking it and the remainder by eating it. Water-rich fruits include watermelon, cucumber, grapefruit, cantaloupe, strawberry and peaches. Vegetables include radishes, zucchini, celery, lettuce and cauliflower.

Level 2: Tea and coffee

These two beverages, when consumed plain, are devoid of calories and include many healthy substances, including flavonoids, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.

Additives like cream, sugar and whipped cream turn these into unhealthy choices. Research indicates that daily intake of up to three or four cups of these caffeinated drinks is the sweet spot. According to eatright.org, studies show drinking black tea is associated with a decreased likelihood of heart attack while green tea is related to lower bad cholesterol and higher good cholesterol.

Level 3: Low-fat milk, skim milk and soy beverages

Milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, but the Panel stresses choosing low-fat or fat-free milk, which have less saturated fat than whole milk. Even low-fat milk has a lot of calories so it’s wise to drink no more than two glasses a day. Soy milk is a good option if you are lactose intolerant or don’t like milk.

Level 4: Calorie-free sweetened beverages

Diet drinks are sweetened with calorie-free artificial sweeteners. But because there is an ongoing debate over whether or not these sweeteners contribute to weight gain, it is best to limit your intake to an occasional treat.

Level 5: Beverages with calories and limited nutrients

This category includes fruit juice, vegetable juice, sports drinks, vitamin waters and alcoholic beverages. Due to a high caloric index, it’s best to limit fruit juice to a four-ounce serving per day. Since fruit smoothies are high in calories, they should only be an occasional treat. While most vegetable juice is a lower calorie option, it often has a large amount of salt. So read labels!

Sports drinks are only needed by athletes who exercise an hour or more straight and sweat a lot. Vitamin waters are redundant if you take a daily vitamin.

With regard to alcohol consumption, one study of 38,000 men over a 12-year period showed that moderate drinkers of wine, beer and spirits were 30-35 percent less likely to have a heart attack than non-drinkers. Those who drank daily were at less risk than those who drank once or twice a week.

Level 6: Sweetened beverages with calories

This is the least desirable category, according to the Panel. It includes beverages sweetened with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, including soft drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade, fruit smoothies and many energy drinks. They are high in calories and have no nutritional value.

The take-away

The Panel concluded that we can get all of the fluid we need by simply drinking water and getting nutrients from food. But realizing we are human and not likely to follow a “water only” philosophy, they suggest the following guide for a healthy liquid consumption:

  • It is not the total volume (ounces) of liquid consumed daily, but the proportion of each liquid that helps support our optimum health.
  • Half of the fluid consumed each day should be water.
  • One-third of daily liquid intake can be unsweetened coffee or tea.
  • Low-fat milk can account for 20 percent, or two eight-ounce glasses, of liquid daily consumption. If you drink less than that, be sure to get your calcium from food or a supplement.
  • No more than four ounces of 100 percent fruit juice.
  • Limit daily alcohol consumption to two drinks if you’re a man, one drink if you’re a woman.
  • Ideally, no drinks with artificial sweetener or any form of added sugar.

With an Iowa summer upon us, it’s especially important to remember to drink plenty of liquids and be sensible when exercising outdoors. Be aware that thirst often declines in older adults and drink to your health on a daily basis.

Warm Water Therapy’s Unique Benefits Aid Healing & Recovery

When water’s properties are combined with a water temperature of 92 degrees, you have the optimum conditions for healing and recovering from injury, surgery or chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis. A swimming pool does not offer the benefit of a therapeutic water temperature. Rather, this type of therapy must occur in a warm water therapy pool, like the HydroWorx™ therapy pools Meth-Wick recently installed at The Woodlands.

The benefits of warm water therapy include:

  • Faster recovery from surgery or injury
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased range of motion
  • Greater cardiovascular endurance

Water’s buoyancy reduces the amount of pressure and weight bearing a patient can feel in their joints. Physical therapists use the properties of buoyancy to assist in exercise, support a movement or as resistance to a movement—all depending on whether the patient’s movements are perpendicular to the water’s surface or downward, against bouyancy’s upward push.

Hydrostatic pressure is another beneficial characteristic of water that aids in physical therapy. Simply stated, hydrostatic pressure asserts the same amount of pressure from all directions, which decreases inflammation.

Research confirms aquatic benefits
While physical therapists and doctors have long believed in water’s healing benefits, a growing body of research bolsters the evidence. In one study, a group of 71 patients, who had been diagnosed with hip or knee osteoarthritis, was divided into two groups: one received water therapy, the other did not. After six weeks, the patients in the two groups were evaluated. The water therapy patients gained significant improvement over the non-therapy patients in all areas: pain reduction; increased muscle strength and physical function, and quality of life.

In addition to the inherent benefits of water’s properties, maintaining a warm water temperature of 92 degrees Fahrenheit provides the added benefit of increased circulation to muscles, which makes them easier and less painful to move.

Therapy tools boost progress
Physical therapists often use water-related “tools” to assist their patients in recovery. Underwater treadmills can help patients normalize their walking gait, enhance mobility and improve walking endurance. Underwater jets can be activated to provide resistance to walking on the treadmill, a benefit to a patient who has progressed to a point in water therapy where they need more physical challenge. These jets can also be directed at a specific area to increase blood flow, relieve pain and “loosen” a tight muscle. Water dumbbells and flotation aids are also used to provide a variety of therapeutic movements that can be tailored to the needs of each patient.

Meth-Wick’s Therapy Pools
Warm water therapy is now at Meth-Wick Community! Please join us anytime between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Friday, June 10, for a tour of our new therapy pools at The Woodlands. You’ll also have the chance to experience our new health-enhancing light system and neighborhood philosophy—all designed to help our residents live their best life. We look forward to seeing you there!

Socializing Has a Positive Impact on Senior Health


You enjoy your book club, visits with grandkids and lunch with friends, but did you also know these are good for your health?

Research shows that social interaction is good for everyone, but it is especially beneficial for older adults. “Social capital” is the name researchers have given to the ties that help us build trust, connection and participation. As part of the aging process, people often retire from jobs, lose friends through death and lose family due to busy careers or relocation. This reduction in social interaction can have a negative impact on an older person’s physical and mental health.

All Interaction Helps
Fortunately, it is never too late for an older adult to reap the rewards of a social life, according to an article from the Health Behavior News Service of the Center for Advancing Health.

The article quotes the author of a study related to the effects of socialization among older adults: “People have some control over their social lives, so it is encouraging to find that something many people find enjoyable—socializing with others—can benefit their cognitive and physical health,” says Patricia A. Thomas, Ph.D.

Dr. Thomas and her research associates studied how a person’s changing social connections over time affected health. Study participants, all over the age of 60, were asked about social activities such as visiting family and friends; attending meetings, programs or clubs; and volunteering in the community. They were also asked about mental and physical limitations.

Thomas found that participants with medium to high levels of social engagement delayed the onset of cognitive and physical health issues. She points out, “Even if older adults weren’t socially active when they were younger, when they increase social activity later in life, it can still reduce physical and cognitive health issues.”

The Impact of Communities with Rich Social Capital
Compelling arguments for the importance of social connections are also shared through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkley.

An article on the Center’s website discusses the research work of Yvonne Michael at the Drexel University School of Public Health, who studies the effects of social capital on seniors.

Her studies involve asking older adults living in various communities to answer questions such as “Are your neighbors willing to help each other with routine maintenance?” or “Can you trust your neighbors?” Using the results, Michael determines the connections between health, behavior and social capital.

In a health study involving 14,000 older adults, Michael found that seniors who live in neighborhoods with high levels of social capital are more physically mobile than those living in neighborhoods with low social capital.

In summary, Michael said, “Living in a place with greater social capital—where there is more trust and more helpful neighbors—you will feel more comfortable walking around to get to places you need to go, which helps you stay mobile.”

A Healthy Answer to Isolation
Senior living communities like Meth-Wick provide a solution to the decline in the social capital of older adults. We offer an environment where companionship and interaction are easily accessible.

Meth-Wick’s Town Center is our hub of social activity, where residents can join friends for a leisurely cup of coffee or participate in one of many programs to exercise the body and mind. There are also many on-campus opportunities to volunteer, which is another important way to build social capital.

At Meth-Wick, we believe in helping our residents live their best life through many forms of social engagement, while at the same time respecting personal privacy.

Seniors Benefit from Exploring Their Creative Side


In recent years, the “graying of America” has inspired a re-evaluation of the way people age, emphasizing the potential of seniors rather than their limitations. This new perspective goes hand-in-hand with research studies that seek to find which factors contribute to senior citizens remaining healthy and independent longer. A growing body of evidence shows that visual and performing arts can improve brain function in older adults.

The art of aging
A study conducted by the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities at George Washington University found that older adults who create artwork have improved brain function. The 300 study participants were divided into two groups. One group participated in a weekly art class while the other did not. The researchers said the results “…point to true health promotion and disease prevention effects” and to “a positive impact on maintaining independence and on reducing dependency.” Their summary also states, “The community-based cultural program for older adults appears to be reducing risk factors that drive the need for long-term care.”

Another study on aging was conducted in Germany with 28 retirees between the ages of 62 and 70. A brain scan was taken of each participant at the beginning of the study. Over a 10-week period, half of the group took part in an art course where they created artwork after first learning painting and drawing techniques. The other participants attended an art appreciation class where they learned to interpret sculptures and paintings.

Brain scans were repeated at the end of the coursework. While there was no change in the brain activity of those who attended the art appreciation class, there was a notable change for the participants who created artwork. Their brains had increased levels of cognitive processing, which including introspection, self-monitoring and memory. The researchers concluded that creating art offers the possibility for reducing or even eliminating the reduced brain function that normally comes with aging.

…and dancing, too!
Expressing themselves through arts such as painting is not the only way for seniors to improve their brain health. Dancing can also provide benefits. The New England Journal of Medicine reported the results of a study that explored the types of activities that could improve brain function and reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A group of seniors over the age of 75 took part in reading, bicycling or swimming, crossword puzzles, golf and dancing. Researchers found that individuals who danced were 76 percent less likely to develop dementia. This was the only activity where researchers found a direct link.

“Studies in recent years have provided great insight into how people age and what is needed to support active and healthy aging,” says Eryn Cronbaugh, Meth-Wick’s Director of Wellness and Recreation. “Meth-Wick offers residents a broad range of programs to exercise the body and mind, with the goal of supporting our residents in remaining active and independent longer.” She also points out that the types of programs evolve with the ever-changing interests and needs of its residents.

From painting and woodworking to yoga and chair volleyball, Meth-Wick empowers residents to age actively and gracefully…to enjoy their best life.

Suit up! Warm Water Therapy is Coming to Meth-Wick


Water is a therapeutic tool that can benefit many health conditions, which is why we’ve taken steps to provide this therapy to Linn County residents. Meth-Wick is installing two Hydroworx pools at The Woodlands through the Rejuvenate campaign.  The therapy pools will enable Meth-Wick to offer improved quality of life to individuals who have been unable to exercise due to pain, limited mobility and/or discomfort.

We anticipate many benefits to water therapy with the Hydroworx pools. Some of those benefits are:

  • Reducing the force of gravity that’s compressing the joint. Hydrotherapy offers 360-degree support for sore limbs, decreases swelling and inflammation, and increases circulation.
  • Stimulating blood flow to stiff muscles and frozen joints. This makes it easier for a person to move joints and exercise more than they would be able to do outside of the pools.
  • Moveable floors that aid in safe entry and exit for all residents. “Once the pool floor is lowered, the bottom acts as a treadmill that promotes proper posture and gait while walking,” says our Fitness Specialist, Kristin VanDyke. “There are also underwater cameras so fitness and therapy professionals can assess the biomechanics of residents.”
  • Adjustable jets allow each resident to set their own resistance. As the resident’s workouts progress, the resistance can be increased to challenge and improve their endurance and strength.
  • New aquatic exercise classes, aquatic personal training and water walking. These classes will aim to decrease fall risk, increase strength, endurance and range of motion, as well as improve overall health and well being of all residents.

Meth-Wick is excited to add Hydroworx pools to its campus not only because of the additional fitness programming but because of the many benefits they will bring to our residents and the Cedar Rapids Community.

If you have questions about the Hydroworx pools or wellness at Meth-Wick, contact Eryn Cronbaugh, Director of Wellness and Recreation, or Kristin VanDyke, Fitness Specialist.

Preventing Falls: Staying Safe in Your Home

Safety and independence are important to many seniors. We wanted to share an article from LeadingAge.org to help you accomplish that by preparing yourself and your home from events that could cause falls. Here are some tips from that article:

  • Rugs are always a potential tripping hazard. If you have a walker, cane, crutches, or shoe heels, they can easily catch on the edges or corners, and the results can be painful.
    • Tip: Tapping the rugs down can help, but removing the rug complete is the safest way to go.
  • Do you have piles of books, half-finished projects, or laundry lying around? Make sure these are all cleared from floors and stairways.
    • Tip: Have a small, lightweight, handled basket — one at the top and one at the bottom – of your stairway. When you need to bring something upstairs or downstairs, put it in the basket, and slide the handle over your arm. This leaves your other hand free to grab the stair rail.
  • Check the handrails on your stairs. How sturdy are they? If you think they need to be fixed, be sure to call a professional.
    • Tip: Even if you don’t think you will use them now, at some point you’ll appreciate having the option of grab bars in bathrooms — in the shower and tub, as well as near the toilet.
  • Soapy water is extremely slippery, especially on porcelain or tile.
    • Tip: Install rubber mats or treads in tubs and showers, or anywhere that soapy water could splash and create a hazard.
  • Make sure wires, cords, and cables run along walls, not across walkways.
    • Tip: Use electrical tape or special staples to secure cords against baseboards. Don’t run cords under rugs or carpeting — this may prevent tripping, but it can be a fire hazard.
  • Are the items you use most often in the kitchen easily to reach? If not, rearrange things so they are on shelves that are most accessible to you. If you have cabinets under your kitchen counters, consider installing pullout, sliding shelves to make items more viewable and accessible.
    • Tip: Keep a stepladder nearby for those occasions when you do need to reach a higher shelf. Use a sturdy, level stepladder that has rubber grips on the feet and a stepping area wide enough to make you feel comfortable.
  • Is your house well lit? Have you started using brighter bulbs in hallways and stairwells?
    • Tip: Leave hall lights or bathroom lights on in preparation for nighttime trips. You may pay a few cents more on your electric bill, but you’ll save the cost of a midnight ambulance ride!

Now that your home is fall-proof, here are a few tips to make sure your health won’t cause a fall.

  • Make an appointment with your doctor. You can go over the medications you are taking, talk about any feelings of unsteadiness or being off balance, and ask if any of your current health conditions could unsteadiness.
  • Keep moving! Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. Mayo Clinic published an article that said, “With your doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi — a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.”
  • Review your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. Shoes like high heels, slippers and shoes with slick soles have a greater risk of unbalance. So can walking in your stocking feet! Instead, wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.

We want you to stay safe and independent in your home longer. These few steps to fall-proof yourself and your home will help do just that. If you have questions on other ways to improve your balance or prevent falls, contact Sue Schmitt, Director of Post-Acute Care, at sschmitt@methwick.org.

What is WelTracs?

Meth-Wick believes living well is essential to everyone at every age. This belief was the foundation of a program we developed, WelTracs. It offers residents a unique combination of community-based services and a successful aging program.

WelTracs focuses on the six dimensions of wellness, helping each resident identify their own successful aging journey. This is achieved using a goal-based, one-on-one conversation approach, meaning residents have the opportunity to set goals pertaining to what they want to get involved in on or off campus. This approach also provides the Meth-Wick staff with programming ideas to meet resident interests. Each new, incoming independent living resident is required to take part in WelTracs.

“We encourage all residents who have participated in WelTracs over the course of the year to participate in an annual revisit,” says our Successful Aging Coordinator, Shantel Phipps. “During these revisits, we are able to evaluate some of the goals they set the previous year, set any new wellness goals for this year, and have a detailed conversation over their health and wellness.” This was the same model that made the COLLAGE Program so successful and that program had a 100% reassessment/revisit rate from our residents who participated in this program just over a year ago.

The WelTracs program has been extremely beneficial to our residents who have been involved with it so far. It allows them to “live their best life” at Meth-Wick. If a resident is interested in a program or activity that Meth-Wick does not currently offer, we try to implement the program on campus to fill the need. Some of the programs we’ve added in response to resident requests include yoga, tai chi, balance classes, art programs and massage therapy.

Shantel adds, “WelTracs enables us to play a role in resident wellness, which enables us to get to know our residents on a personal level. We have the opportunity to learn what programs residents need in order to meet their goals. We are not wasting resources or time offering unpopular programs.”

WelTracs is designed to help seniors age successfully, in the way they would like. Ultimately, they are the decision makers when it comes to their wellness, and they make the goals that identify their successful aging journey.

Questions about Successful Aging or Meth-Wick’s WelTracs Program? Contact Shantel Phipps at sphipps@methwick.org.