Warmth from a roaring fireplace on the back wall primed the room for a hot yoga class.
Instead of stretching on mats in workout clothes, though, the group of 16 participants — many of whom use walkers and wheelchairs — remained seated as they followed the lead of their certified personal trainer.
“I’m surprised I enjoy it as much as I do,” said resident Janice Zinger, a widow who sat in the front row during the 45-minute session. “It gives us something else to think about and practice.”
Senior Housing Management, a Cedar Rapids-based company that oversees 24 assisted living centers in Iowa and one in Galena, Illinois, assumed control of Country Manor on July 1. Representatives from one of Senior Housing Management's partners, Live 2 B Healthy, a nationwide franchise committed to senior fitness, introduced the program to Country Manor residents July 2.
The classes, designed to improve participants' balance, mobility and mental health, are held at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. While they are geared toward residents with cognitive impairments, other seniors in the Quad-Cities may join for free.
Physical activity, specifically strength training, reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and slows the effects of dementia, said Chris Pipkin, who manages Live 2 B Healthy’s programs in eastern Iowa.
Plus, he added, "Endorphins are released in the brain when we exercise, and that improves your mood."
Exercise elevates a person’s heart rate and increases blood flow to their brain and the rest of their body. That lessens the potential growth of dementia risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Exercising also helps patients maintain independent living skills as well as reduce stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia, the nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research reports.
"A lot of our residents struggle with understanding why they're here, so this is good for their focus," said Lori Bader, sales director at Country Manor.
EXERT, an ongoing clinical trial led by the National Institute on Aging in collaboration with the YMCA, aims to determine the type and frequency of exercise needed to support memory and thinking skills.
Serving as the sole standalone memory care center in Davenport, Country Manor, which opened in 1998, has 24 residents and 14 available spots, Bader said. The monthly cost of living begins at $3,900, but the total amount varies depending on the level of care required. The facility currently does not accept Medicaid recipients; many residents are covered by long-term care insurance plans or qualify for Aid and Attendance pension benefits as military veterans or spouses of military veterans.
At Monday's class, instructor Steph Thomas distributed elastic resistance bands to each of the residents, who performed a variety of activities, including shoulder rolls, bicep curls and a rowing exercise.
Julie Morrison of Davenport stood beside her seated mother, Ellen Mortenson, an Alzheimer's patient, for part of the period.
"Look at you go!" Morrison said. "Good job, mom."
Mortenson recently moved to Country Manor from a community in Wisconsin. So far she has made it to all three fitness classes.
"It's awesome," said Morrison, director of the daycare program at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport. "She's been in exercise classes at other facilities, and she always said, 'You don't do anything,' but after this, she's a little winded."
Before lunch, the smiling mother-daughter duo sat together on a bench in the courtyard.
"I'm mothering her now," Morrison said. "She deserves some pampering."