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Maintaining the Capacity for Basic Physical Independence

Maintaining the Capacity for Basic Physical Independence

March 4, 2020

Older adult care in our modern era – rife with technological advancement and perpetual medical breakthrough – lacks the multigenerational systems of care from yesteryear. The family then was indeed the core of care. Older adults were not left to cope with the infirmities of age on their own. The mindset of the West carries our independent spirit well into our declining years. What we desire in old age is what we so readily sought in our youth, independence.

Surgeon and Harvard Medical School Professor Atul Gawande wrote in his New York Times bestseller, Being Mortal, about the striking dichotomy between being an older adult surrounded by family and being one within the confines of institutions like senior living centers and nursing homes. Gawande highlights the formal classification for levels of function a person has as adhered to by health professionals. Known as the eight “Activities of Daily Living”, the ability to perform the following have direct ramifications on the quality of one’s life:

  1. Use the toilet 
  2. Eat 
  3. Dress 
  4. Bathe 
  5. Groom 
  6. Get out of bed 
  7. Get out of a chair 
  8. Walk

If the above activities are not able to be accomplished without help, you are lacking the capacity for basic physical independence. This need not mean you are disabled, but most people agree that they would like to continue performing these tasks independently for as long as possible.
Mobility and Independence, A special health report from the Harvard Medical School, astutely promotes deliberate maintenance and safeguarding of our independence. This is no less important in our older years. This report stresses the pride and joy we experience by doing things on our own. It states, “The ability to rely on our own body, skills, and mental agility is a crucial part of a satisfying life.”

One of these is walking. Yes, aging may take its toll on an older adult’s ability to spring into action. However, when it comes to mobility, the single most important thing an individual can do is to stay physically active. Within the Harvard Medical School report, it highlights that staying active keeps your joints limber, strengthen core muscles, and helps avoid backpain. Let’s not forget about the importance of maintaining a sense of balance.

When mobility is compromised, the use of a cane or walker can be nearly as advantageous to maintain frequent mobility. Older adults may lose full capacity to move on command. However, they should not lose the ability to maintain the capacity of physical independence.

“Walking is man’s best medicine” – Hippocrates
By Aaron Lamb, Director of Business Development

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7 Tips To Age In Place

7 Tips to Age in Place

January 30, 2020


Aging in place — a term that generally means staying in one’s home or position of comfort for the rest of their life. The term tends to be anti-nursing home, and pro senior living. Aging in place has not only been recently popularized, but with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, many strive to make this reality their own.

If you or a loved one feel aging in place fits your desired lifestyle, here are 7 tips that can help make this dream become reality.

1. Simple home modifications

Some simple home modifications can make aging in place easier. We understand that sometimes modifying one’s home may be outside of financial means, but in a previous blog we lay out a few low-cost solutions that make day-to-day living more simple.

Clearing paths from room to room, modifying/discarding throw rugs, and adding nightlights through hallways and bedrooms are just a few tips covered.

2. Organize

Make sure to reorganize your home so you can access necessary tools and items instantly. Clear out your storage room or closet that may have cluttered over the years. (Invite family and friends to come help you accomplish this daunting task!)

Here’s an idea: Have a rummage sale! Rummage sales allow your least utilized items to be utilized by someone else, and it clears your home of unwanted clutter.

3. Exercise

Keeping up with your exercise can positively impact your life, not only physically but mentally as well. According to, most adults 65+ should get about 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise a week (i.e. brisk walking). This adds up to about 22 minutes a day and can be done outside, on a treadmill, or at a facility with an indoor track.

Many people are worried that losing strength may inhibit their ability to stay at home. If you continue to exercise and build strength, it can help you maintain your physical ability to age in place for years to come.

Tip: Try to find a friend that is willing to exercise with you; it’s always more fun to have conversation while working out!

4. Eat healthy

We all know eating well can have major health benefits. Pass on the fast food and set forth a simple meal prepping plan every week. With a little bit of work on a Sunday night, you can have all of your lunches ready to go. Minimize your consumption of red meat and substitute with poultry or fish. Try to keep your meals to only one plate or bowl and don’t forget to drink lots of water! A healthy diet can maintain your ability to age in place by reducing health issues and ultimately helping you feel better. (Of course, we know life is about balance, so please don’t always pass on dessert — just sometimes!)

5. Remain active in your community

Find groups and clubs to join! Many communities have weekly meetups for almost any activity you can imagine. Knitting, running, biking, bible study, you name it, they have it. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and maintain your social life! Not to mention, it’s fun being part of a group. Social isolation is an issue for many people aging in place, and if you find a community of people with similar interests, loneliness can be combated.

Food for thought — Try a new activity that has always interested you: talents can be found at any age!

6. Utilize Technology

Technology has become a major part of everyone’s lives, for example, according to the Pew Research Center, 93% of people aged 65+ own a cellphone. Technology can unlock new communication with family members, allow you to stream movies, and even track your fitness.

Shameless plug — If you use a walker, one technology that is built specifically for you is the WalkWise smart walker attachment. When family members and caregivers have tools like WalkWise, they are more likely to see aging at home as a viable option. Learn more about WalkWise here.

7. Visit your doctor

Don’t forget to visit your doctor! Yearly checkups are massively important for everyone’s health: and you’re no different. Make sure to have a doctor or nurse that you feel comfortable calling in case anything unusual may happen. Regular checkups with your dentist and optometrist are extremely important as well. Being active in your own health will maximize your ability to age in place.

Aging in place is a wonderful goal, and many people can achieve it with a few simple changes. Though we know this is not a comprehensive list, these 7 tips are a good start to making your dream a reality.

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WalkWise is the first ND company selected for Techstars accelerator program.

WalkWise is the first ND company selected for Techstars accelerator program.

September 13, 2019

WalkWise is the first North Dakota company selected to take part in a Techstars Accelerator Program and will join a group of startups with a combined market cap of $22B. The Minneapolis Techstars program runs until December in partnership with United Healthcare, the world’s largest healthcare company.

For the next three months the Fargo startup will be working with a curated group of world class business leaders and entrepreneurs to help grow their business, gain traction, and develop strategic partnerships. “We couldn’t be more excited to be part of the UnitedHealthcare Techstars Accelerator. This is an important step for our company as we advance our mission of helping seniors and families throughout the country. We are grateful to the customers who have already adopted WalkWise and the organizations that have supported us along our journey,” stated Founder & CEO Peter Chamberlain (MIT ’16). Marketing Manager Nic Bordwell (MSUM ’19) and Account Executive Jordan Risher (MSUM ’13) will be a part of the WalkWise team heading to Minneapolis for the accelerator program.

Chamberlain credits the support of the Fargo community and organizations like Emerging Prairie for making it possible to start a technology company in North Dakota. WalkWise is the only company in this year’s program from outside a major metro area.

Techstars is one of the largest and most exclusive accelerators in the world, with graduates such as PillPack (recently acquired by Amazon for $1B) and Owlet Baby Care. According to Techstars, they have invested in 1,900 companies that have gone on to raise a total of $7.6B in funding. WalkWise will also be able to utilize their powerful worldwide network for future challenges after graduating from the program.

WalkWise uses simple and discrete technologies to help seniors maintain their independence, provide peace of mind to families, and improve the offerings of senior living communities. Their smart walker attachment tracks activity and fitness levels while also alerting families and caregivers to possible emergencies. Machine-learning algorithms running in the cloud can also help screen for infections. With monthly reports on walking activity, seniors can finally take pride in their walker and their mobility.

Longtime customer Jim Sweeney has been using WalkWise since 2018. “After installing the WalkWise system on my mother’s walker, it has become a routine conversation starter… ‘I see you walked almost a mile today!’ or ‘how is your day going?’ after seeing a limited amount of walking. The app allows multiple family members to track her activity, which provides peace of mind when we can’t be there personally on a daily basis. I would not want to be without WalkWise going forward.”

Founded in 2016, WalkWise uses their smart walker attachment to keep people safe and independent, no matter where they call home.

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8 Ways to Make a Home Safer for Your Aging Loved One

8 Ways to Make a Home Safer for Your Aging Loved One

July 24, 2019


Nearly nine out of 10 of America’s seniors wish to age in their own home as opposed to a senior living community or retirement home. And 60 percent of falls among the elderly occur in the home.

It is with those two facts in mind that warrant a discussion about some ways to make a home safer for aging loved ones. Family members, friends, and caregivers can’t be present all the time, and the clock can tick fast following a fall or other accident in the home when help is nowhere to be found.

Below are eight ways to make a home safer for aging loved ones.

1. Tidy up.

Many household accidents are the result of debris in hallways or on stairways and furniture. Give your loved one’s home a good tyding up and make sure walkways are free of any clutter.

2. Get some traction.

Apply a coat of nonslip wax to tile and hardwood floors and place some nonskid treads on stairs to minimize slippage.

3. Move the upstairs down.

The best way to prevent a fall down the stairs is to limit the amount of stair climbing necessary. If your loved one lives in a multi-floor home, do some re-arranging to put everything they need — bed, computer, TV and so forth — on the ground floor to reduce trips upstairs.

4. Start with the bathroom.

According to the National Institute on Aging, some 80 percent of household falls involving seniors happen in the bathroom. Install grab bars in the bathtub or shower and near the toilet and cover the floor with rubber-backed bathmats.

5. Make minor modifications

Small modifications can make a big difference. Consider handrails for the hallway, lever handles instead of doorknobs and removing locks from bathroom and bedroom doors. Help your loved one check their Medicare coverage as certain home modifications related to aging-in-place may now be covered by private Medicare insurance.

6. Fix the rug.

Throw rugs and shag carpeting are large contributors to falls. Fasten throw rugs to the floor and replace any long-fibered carpet with a flatter surface that won’t get snagged on canes, walkers or feet.

7. Stay connected.

Technology makes it possible to stay connected with your loved one even when you’re not physically present. Medical alert devices, voice-operated command systems like Amazon Echo or a WalkWise walker attachment can keep help on notice at all hours of the day.

8. Light up the room.

Getting around becomes more difficult as we age, and so does seeing where we want to go in the first place. Older sets of eyes need more light, so install night lights around the house that operate on a timer, by motion-activation or simple touch.

You may also call on a professional for help. A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) can visit your loved ones home and make expert recommendations about ways to make the home a safer place to age.

These small investments can make way for long-term results as your loved one can age in the comfort — and safety — of their own home.

Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, NC.

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Turning 65? It’s Time to Learn About Medicare.

Turning 65? It's Time to Learn About Medicare.

May 13, 2019

In our first guest blog post, Sharon Wagner of shares some useful knowledge about Medicare. Thank you, Sharon!

Your choice of healthcare coverage might be the most important financial decision you make in retirement. Unfortunately, your Medicare options can be confusing at best. How can you make an informed choice when you don’t understand the options?

Selecting Medicare coverage is something many retirees struggle with, which is why we put together this guide to help you understand your health insurance options after 65.

Step 1: Know the Language

Navigating your Medicare options is much harder when you don’t understand the verbiage. Before shopping for coverage, read this Medicare dictionary that explains all the different terms you’re likely to encounter.

Step 2: Understand the Parts of Medicare

The most important thing to understand as a new Medicare beneficiary is the different parts of Medicare and how they do (or don’t) work together.

Original Medicare includes Part A and Part B. Part A covers inpatient hospital services, while Part B covers your outpatient care. Together, these parts pay for most of your doctor’s visits and hospital stays. However, you are required to pay deductibles and coinsurance out of pocket.

Part D is prescription drug coverage. It’s not included in Original Medicare, but is frequently purchased to supplement it. Without Part D coverage, Medicare beneficiaries pay full retail price for medications (although discount cards offer some savings).

Medicare Part C replaces Original Medicare. Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage. Unlike Original Medicare, Part C is administered by private companies, which may shrink your network of covered providers. Seniors who enroll in Part C can purchase a Part D plan as well, but many Part C plans include prescription drug benefits so you don’t need to. Part C plans may include other perks like vision, dental, and fitness benefits.

Medigap is Medicare Supplement Insurance. It comes in standardized plans and is a supplement to Original Medicare. The purpose of Medigap is reducing out-of-pocket costs for Original Medicare.

Examine Your Healthcare Needs

Part of what makes Medicare so confusing is that the “best” coverage varies from person to person. A senior who manages one or several chronic diseases has different healthcare priorities than a senior who needs annual checkups, preventive care, and not much else.

Another challenge is anticipating future healthcare needs. While it’s possible to change plans, Medicare changes must be made during annual enrollment periods. Even then, it may be impossible to switch to your preferred plan without incurring higher premiums and medical underwriting.

To choose the right plan for you, without a bunch of plan-hopping, consider these factors:

  1. Your tolerance for out-of-pocket spending. Original Medicare offers the lowest premiums but highest out-of-pocket costs. Supplementing Original Medicare with Medigap or replacing it with Medicare Advantage leads to higher premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs.
  2. Your preferred doctors. Under Original Medicare, seniors can see any doctor that accepts Medicare. You can also see non-participating providers, but may incur higher out-of-pocket costs. Medicare Advantage restricts coverage to providers within their network.
  3. Your prescription drugs. Different Part D plans cover different drugs. In order to find coverage for the medications you take, use the Medicare Plan Finder to compare Part D plans.
  4. Your vision, dental, and hearing needs. Original Medicare doesn’t cover vision, dental, or hearing care outside of medically-necessary eye health screenings. Seniors who want coverage for eyeglasses, hearing aids, and routine dental care should consider Medicare Advantage plans or standalone insurance policies.

Still confused? There’s a lot to digest when it comes to selecting Medicare coverage, but you don’t have to do it alone. Seniors who want help navigating Medicare options should reach out to their State Health Insurance Assistance Program. SHIP employees can help you find the best Medicare coverage for your health and your budget.

-Sharon Wagner,

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Should “senior safety” be our priority?

Should "senior safety" be our priority?

May 3, 2019

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal is required reading for people joining the WalkWise team. One of the major themes is the continual struggle between safety and independence. It’s a struggle that plays itself out our entire lives, from our days crawling around the floor as a toddler, to riding a bicycle in a busy metro, to where we end up as we age. The heart of the issues is this: as we increase our safety our independence decreases.

As a child our freedoms are artificially restricted in an attempt to keep us safe and healthy. How many of us were told “no” by our parents when we asked to ride our bikes on a busy street to a friend’s house? As we grow into adults, our independence is generally limited by the law. The government says we can’t do dangerous things, such as speed at 100 mph or build a house with no fire safety mechanisms. We also choose not to put ourselves in dangerous situations, but you could always change your mind and decide to climb a cliff with no rope. You have independence when you are allowed to determine your own acceptable level of risk, when you can choose what you will and won’t do, and when you can make decisions that affect your own life. As you can see, the more your independence is restricted, the safer you are.

Society generally tries to limit a person’s independence for their own good. A child cannot by tobacco or alcohol. A distressed psychiatric patient is not allowed to leave the ward. A struggling mother cannot take out a loan at 100% daily interest. But once you turn 21 in the U.S., the state generally has a fairly hands-off approach. Why then, do we find it acceptable to limit a person’s independence when they enter their “golden years”?

The answer is safety. What could be more important? As a family, we would blame ourselves if Mom slipped on the kitchen floor and broke her hip. We would say, “why didn’t we do something to prevent this?” Unfortunately, it is this fear that drives many of the conversations about moving Mom or Dad out of their homes. Would this move be an effort to ease our guilt rather than to improve their quality of life?

Safety is obviously important. Reducing falls and detecting health issues can greatly improve quality and length of life. But when safety comes at the cost of independence, it is a tradeoff we should not take lightly. A lack of independence is one major reason why seniors are terrified of nursing homes. They eat, sleep, and toilet on someone else’s schedule. They can’t interact with other patients at all hours of the day. They must be quiet to avoid waking their roommates. Visiting hours are restricted. They can’t call an Uber and go to the movies!

Senior Living, more specifically Assisted Living, was invented as one way to free people of these restrictions. Sure, you can get help with what you need. But no one is supposed to tell you “No, you can’t do/eat/watch/say that”. There are obvious exceptions, of course, but for the most part independence takes precedent. Over time, however, many assisted living communities have come to look more and more like nursing homes with nicer rooms.

Offenses come in many forms, such as moving the walker or wheelchair away from the bed so that residents can’t get up whenever they want. Open door policies remove privacy while increasing “safety”. Scheduled meals, with little flexibility. Not allowing a glass of wine with dinner. Assigned seating at the tables. The list goes on. Some of these are done with the very best of intentions, and some are done because of excess regulation or fears about fines. Regardless of the cause, families and caregivers need to do a better job of thinking about independence, rather than simply safety.

Technology can help. Discrete, non-intrusive solutions exist that allow for predictive analytics or emergency response without sacrificing privacy or independence. In future blog posts, we will explore the wide breadth of “senior technology” on the market, but always through the lens of independence vs safety. We hope you join us!