by Jeff Pederson
for The Beacon
The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a multitude of challenges resulting in various lasting impacts on all sectors of society.
For the most vulnerable older population, the isolation brought on by mandatory quarantine procedures has had a deeper, potentially more damaging affect.
As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be spread across the population, the social restrictions that have led to isolation have gradually been lifted in recent weeks giving more people the freedom to move a little more freely and engaging in what would be considered “normal” daily activities.
Landmark Square senior independent living condominiums in Sheboygan has recently taken some additional measures to help their population of 55 and older residents gradually ease back into a more active and potentially healthier lifestyle that is becoming more in focus on the horizon in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world.
“Landmark Square is a 70-unit senior independent living facility that promotes the concept of older adults living on their own in separate living units for as long as they can,” Landmark Square President Jim Holmes said. “We are a 55 and over complex, but the majority of our residents are 65 and older,” he said. “We have residents in their 60s, 70s, 80s, a few in their 90s and even one that is 100 years old. We opened in 2008, so we’ve been around now for the past 13 years now.”
Holmes admits the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a number of challenges for the residents of Landmark Square.
“With COVID, we have been following the health and safety guidelines set by Pine Haven, which serves as our senior living administrator. Everyone has been wearing masks and staying six feet apart when in common areas outside of their own living units.
“We have been allowing visitors, who of course also need to abide by the health and safety guidelines for COVID,” he said. “As a senior independent living facility, COVID has impacted our daily life as we used to gather for lunch every day in the commons area, but we haven’t done that with COVID. We have started up bingo again with people wearing masks and staying six feet apart. We are hoping to open our exercise area soon. During COVID, staying active has been fairly challenging for many, if not most, of our residents.”
As a way to promote increased activity and an active lifestyle, Landmark Square has joined forces with Sheboygan-based VibeTech to offer a 12-week therapeutic vibration program targeting the lower body and designed to help older adults in preventing falls and increasing mobility.
“I met VibeTech CEO and Founder Jeff Leismer at an Alzheimer’s Advocacy Day event in Madison two years ago,” Holmes said. “He told me about VibeTech’s development of therapeutic vibration technology that is focused on helping older adults with reducing falls and increase their level of mobility.
“It sounded like a very intriguing concept and he also mentioned his goal of getting his therapeutic vibration device into nursing homes and senior independent living homes, like ours,” he said. “It hit home with me because we have 18-20 people at Landmark that use walkers. We had talked about doing a study with our residents, but it kind of went to the back burner when COVID hit last March. However, around the start of the year we got in contact again and it seemed to be a good time to get it going, so in February we launched the three-month study at Landmark Square.”
In early February, 36 Landmark Square residents volunteered to participate in the 12-week program, which will wrap up on May 11.
“We made the study available to everyone and we received 36 positive responses,” Holmes said. “The study is set up with one person using the machine with one facilitator from VibeTech in a one-on-one environment with both wearing masks. Of the 36 volunteers, a group was randomly chosen to receive treatments during the study and other volunteers will be used as a control group to compare results of treatments and no treatments. However, after the study is complete, the control group will be offered the same protocol of treatments.
“I firmly believe that quite a few people will benefit from VibeTech’s therapeutic vibration device and we are already seeing a lot of positives come from the program with our residents having this as something to look forward to, which also makes them feel good and improves their level of mobility,” he said.
Holmes himself has been among the participants in the study and has already noticed a difference in his level of mobility.
“I’ve had times when I dropped my keys, for instance, and had trouble getting down to get them,” Holmes said. ‘Since I’ve starting using the VibeTech device, I’ve notice improved range of motion, especially with my bending motion.
“Using the machine makes me feel good that I’m not depending on anything but my own mobility to get around and do things like bend over to pick up my keys. My feeling is that there are a lot of people that really need this and will benefit from it greatly.”
Other participants in the Landmark Square therapeutic vibration program echoed Holmes’ remarks, including 80-year-old Landmark Square resident Henry Lipman, who regularly uses a walker.
“I’ve lived at Landmark Square for five years now and I love it here,” Lipman said. “I work at Festival Foods as a bagger and they won’t let me sit down when I work.
“Before I started in this program, I couldn’t stand for more than one hour,” he said. “Since I’ve been in the program, I can stand for my full two-and-half-hour shift. Outside of working at Festival Foods, I formed a bike club at Landmark Square and we ride tricycles around the parking lot here nearly every day. It has felt great to ride my tricycle after my treatments as part of the VibeTech program.”
Lipman says being part of the VibeTech program has helped to raise his spirits and activity level during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of us have been locked up in our condos during COVID, which hasn’t been fun at all,” Lipman said. “A lot of people have been going crazy dealing with this pandemic.
“Doing extra activity as part of the program has helped me a great deal,” he said. “I would highly recommend it to others. Everyone I work with at Festival are teenagers. I am trying to keep up with them and I’m really happy to be able to stand for my entire two-and-half-hour shift. It has been awesome.”
Joyce Anderson, who is part of the program’s control group, has also enjoyed her involvement.
“I honestly was disappointed that I was in the control group and not picked to benefit from the treatment of the program,” Anderson said. “I know being in the control group, I can help in gathering meaningful information for the VibeTech study.”
“I understand that tracking the results of both the control and treatment groups will prove to benefit in developing VibeTech’s therapeutic vibration product in the future,” she said. “I use the VibeTech device once a week for 15 minutes. I sit on the machine and push with my legs. Then I do nothing for 10 minutes. My husband, Michael, is part of the treatment group and I have seen how it has helped him, which has been so great to experience. He has very bad knees and his muscles hurt often, which makes it difficult for him to walk. Since he started the program, he has been walking faster and leaving his walker behind, which he never used to do. His confidence has really been boasted.”
Michael Anderson admits to being hesitant about the program at first.
“I was curious about the program when I first heard about it, but I wasn’t sure what it would actually do for me,” Michael Anderson said. “Since I started the program, I noticed that I was very tired right after the treatment, but then I start feeling better two days after the treatment. I have been walking farther on my own and forgetting about the walker.
“We’ve actually been walking downtown and to the arts center, which is about four or five blocks,” he said. “My goal is to walk to the lake, which is a lot of up and downhill. I think I can do it though. I have a disease that makes me lose my balance often, and the program is helping me with my balance issue.”
According to Leismer, the positive impact of being involved in the therapeutic vibration study has been significant.
“We just did our first monthly assessment based on the data that we’ve gathered from intake to the completion of the first month of the program and we’ve found that Michael has been doing incredibly well,” Leismer said. “In our assessment process, which measures walking speed, range of motion, ability to get up from a chair and overall balance, Michael has progressed from a rating of three out of 12 at the beginning to nine out of 12 at the most recent session. An improvement of one is considered clinically significant, so Michael is actually now at a level of improvement that is six times what is considered to be clinically significant. That is testimony to what therapeutic vibration can do to help people improve their mobility.”
Leismer is pleased to be able to offer quick feedback on the program, which can in turn help Landmark Square residents, as well as their family care provider and physician.
“It is inspiring to be able to see the progress in real time,” Leismer said. “It is helpful to track that, kind of like looking at the stock market. As the numbers improve, we’ve seen that residents feel better and are able to do more.
“They are also able to share these results with their family care provider and their doctor, which is very helpful as well,” he said. “As the numbers improve, we’ve seen that residents are able to experience more independence and report a better quality of life – engaging in day to day activities they enjoy. That is testimony to what safely dosed and scientifically applied therapeutic vibration can do to strengthen muscles, improve balance and reduce pain.”
Leismer and VibeTech Clinical Liaison Deb Jacoby have been responsible for carrying out the one-on-one sessions with Landmark Square residents.
“This is the first study that we’ve done at an independent living care setting with very physically strong and mobile residents,” Leismer said. “The statistical results gathered will help VibeTech to further prove the beneficial results of our therapeutic vibration devices as we introduce them into the health care environment.”