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Headline: The art of healthy agingFeature
Healthy aging
The secret to living a longer, happier life
Jack Dubnicoff takes time out from his workout at the Wellness Institute.
By Sharon Chisvin Photography by Marianne Helm Sept/Oct 2017
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It is just after seven on a Tuesday morning and Jack Dubnicoff is already vigorously pedalling away on one of the stationary bikes at the Wellness Institute.

He will devote about 40 minutes to the bike before moving on to the elliptical and then maybe the rowing machine. In total, he will spend two hours working out at the fitness centre, just as he does every morning from Tuesday to Sunday, every week, all year round. The only day of the week that Dubnicoff does not start his morning at the Wellness is Monday, the one day of the week that he still works.

Jack Dubnicoff
Jack Dubnicoff's regimen includes cardio
exercises, lifting weights and playing pickeball.

Dubnicoff recently turned 80 years old.

Given the semi-retired chef and culinary consultant's levels of activity and fitness, mental acuity and overall lifestyle, it's fair to say Dubnicoff has figured out how to get the most out of life.

Some of that vitality is no doubt due to a little nudge from genetics and good fortune. But a lot it is also due to his commitment to the principles of healthy aging, an evidence-based concept designed to improve overall personal health and well-being by focusing on four key interconnected areas: maintaining an active lifestyle, eating a well-balanced nutritious diet, staying socially connected and eliminating smoking.

While Dubnicoff has been a lifelong disciple of these ideas, his commitment to them has been enhanced by his membership to the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks General Hospital, which is located about five minutes away from this home in northwest Winnipeg. The institute, opened in 1996, is one of a number of fitness facilities in the city, including the Reh-Fit Centre and the Rady Centre, that promote the concept of healthy aging through various programs.

Since joining the Wellness Institute 16 years ago, Dubnicoff has tried out and mastered almost every piece of fitness equipment on the floor, established a weekly regimen that faithfully alternates between cardio and weights, and passionately taken up the sport of pickleball, which he plays at the facility every Saturday and Sunday.

In between his Wellness workouts, Dubnicoff also speed skates, swims, golfs and curls, and for the last seven years has competed, and often medaled, at the Manitoba 55+ Games.

"Healthy aging is embedded in everything that we do at the Wellness Institute."

"When I'm working out, I challenge myself," says Dubnicoff, who is also the father of Olympian cyclist Tanya Dubnicoff. "You can (always) do a little bit more. Some days you just don't feel like it, but the main thing is you just do it, and, no matter what, you work through it and at the end you walk out of there like a new man, invigorated. That's the feeling you want to get and that's something I try to maintain."

"I want to take care of my body," he adds matter of factly. "It is the only one that I have."

The point is well taken. According to Stats Canada, adults 55 years of age and older are, after all, one of the fastest growing segments of the population. But studies have shown that many people within this demographic group are also developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure that rob them of their quality of life.

For Ashley Derlago, Health Education and Lifestyle Co-ordinator at the Wellness Institute, the message is clear.

George Koch
George Koch does yoga as well as other exercises
to keep in shape.

"You need to exercise to be able to keep your body fit, healthy and strong," she says. "Regular exercise and physical activity not only have positive effects on longevity, but also on delaying specific diseases, decreasing morbidity, and increasing quality of life," she says.

As part of the Wellness Institute's healthy aging program, Derlago holds group classes and also meets one-on-one with members to discuss their lifestyle choices, help them plan their exercise routine, and evaluate their level of function.

"If a client has a weakness or an imbalance in a particular area it often results in dysfunction and can affect their quality of life," she explains. "If I am able to help them regain their level of function, they are more likely to go about their daily activities with ease and improve their quality of life."

While staff members at the institute have access to technology that can measure and track a variety of variables for clients, including body fat and muscle distribution, Derlago emphasizes the importance of regular medical check-ups in order to assess such measurables as lipid profiles, heart rate, blood pressure and suitability for exertion.

"No matter how old you are or what stage of life you are in, it is always important to make healthy eating a priority and provide your body with the nutrition it needs to thrive."

"I go see a doctor every year," Dubnicoff says, "and he tells me just keep doing what you're doing. I haven't experienced limitation because of my age. I certainly feel good. I have a positive attitude and I keep going."

Dubnicoff's overall good health, like that of most healthy-agers, is not solely a result of his extensive physical activity. It is also a direct consequence of smart lifestyle choices, including eating well and wisely.

"Healthy eating has many benefits such as improving cholesterol levels, resting blood pressure and heart rate," Derlago says. "And it helps maintain a healthy body weight and body composition, and improves quality of life."

For Dubnicoff, that means eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding sugar.

"No matter how old you are or what stage of life you are in, it is always important to make healthy eating a priority and provide your body with the nutrition it needs to thrive," says Jennifer Gashinski.

A registered dietitian, Gashinski leads group sessions for Wellness Institute members to learn about nutrition, and also meets with members on an individual basis to talk about diet and exercise.

In addition to watching what he eats, Dubnicoff also makes a point of stimulating and challenging his mental faculties with word puzzles and other related activities. He also socializes and interacts with others on a regular basis - at the curling rink and speed skating oval, on the golf green, and of course on the track and in the locker room at the Wellness Institute.

Ashley Derlago
Health Education and Lifestyle
Co-ordinator Ashley Derlago says exercise
can help keep your body fit and strong.

It is there that Dubnicoff often crosses paths with George Koch.

At 64-years of age, Koch's commitment to aging well is admirable and inspiring.

"I try to get to the Wellness (Institute) every single day," says the retired teacher. "I am not an overzealous fitness nut. I do not freak out if I miss a workout, but I enjoy the journey."

That journey, he says with good humour, is marked by heavy breathing, serious sweating, and the need to wear a belt to keep his pants from falling off.

"Nothing beats waking up in the morning at 6 a.m. with the thought of going to my second home, the Wellness," he enthuses.

Koch had been physically active as a teenager and young adult, running cross-country and playing pick-up sports, but as career, family and other adult commitments competed for his time, his physical activity fell by the wayside.

"As a middle-aged adult, I never considered how much I sat in a day, driving to work, and then unwinding on the couch in front of the television in the evening," he recalls. "Seventeen years ago, I could not run around the block, and a fitness consultant at another institution stopped my initial fitness assessment for fear I would collapse."

That proved to be a life-changing moment for Koch.

"I had to figure out a way to empower myself," he says, "so I joined the Wellness Institute."

It then took him three months to truly form the habit of going every day and developing a physical activity routine. That routine now alternates between weight lifting, the indoor track, the outdoor walking track when weather permits, the therapy pool, the treadmill and his favourite piece of equipment, the elliptical machine.

"This piece of gym equipment is very challenging to me," he explains. "It is easy on my knees and feet, and I am always so excited that I can work my entire body in one shot."

Koch also recently took up yoga.

As stalwart, successful and sociable members of the Wellness, both Koch and Dubnicoff were asked to serve, as they have done many times before, as ambassadors at the institute's annual Active Aging Day. The free event, being held on Tuesday September 26 this year between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Wellness Institute, featured equipment demonstrations, exercise classes, hearing tests, health talks, a sports injury clinic, a keynote address by Dr. Gayle Pollard on the power of prevention, and opportunities to speak with Koch and Dubnicoff about their workouts and wellness.

"This event aims to help anyone 55 years of age or older find the right activities and support to live a healthy lifestyle so they can extend their years of ability and independence," Koch explains. "I like to help and encourage others to enjoy their journey and add pleasure to their years."

Cory Juan
Cory Juan first joined the Wellness Institute
in 2005 soon after retiring.

Cory Juan is another wellness ambassador.

She joined the Wellness Institute soon after retiring in 2005. As part of her routine, Juan does power walking, yoga and works out on the various pieces of equipment in the gym. "The aerobics and yoga are my favourite," she says."

Juan enjoyed the experience so much that she decided in 2013 to launch a workout class at the Garden City mall, with support from the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults in Manitoba, a group that promotes active aging among seniors.

"Belonging to the Wellness Institute is great for me, but I found that some people can't travel there on a regular basis, and there's the matter of the cost of the membership for some," says Juan.

The class, known as Active Living Seven Oaks, now operates Tuesdays and Thursdays at St. Francis Anglican Church on Burrin Avenue. Members of the class follow an exercise program called Steppin' Up With Confidence, which is aimed at getting older adults to be physically active in order to maintain physical strength, flexibility, balance and to encourage social interaction.

Derlago says the healthy aging lifestyle embraced by Juan and others can really make a difference one's life. "We are all aging, (so) why not age healthy?" she asks. "Whether you're 25 or 75, it's never too late to start. You can reap the benefits of positive lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise at any age."

Sharon Chisvin is a Winnipeg writer.

How to get started

The Wellness Institute will hold its annual Active Aging Day on Tuesday, Sept. 26, between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Find out more by clicking here.

A number of local recreation and fitness centres in Winnipeg offer programs that promote healthy aging. Check out the following:

Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks Hospital

The Wellness Institute is a leader in active aging, with education and fitness programs that help older adults to be active, and events that demonstrate the potential for healthy aging.
Phone: 204-632-3900

Reh-Fit Centre

From boosting energy and losing weight to eliminating pain and reducing the use of medication, the Reh-Fit Centre offers a prescription for health that delivers lasting physical, mental, and emotional benefits.
Phone: 204-488-8023

Rady Centre

The Rady JCC Active Living for Older Adults programs offer a variety of classes that can help you improve strength, cardio, balance and mobility. Programs include Aquasize, Exercise for Arthritis, and Active Aging.
Phone: 204-477-7459