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Rose Villa’s saline pool is a popular draw for those looking to keep fit in an environment safer for the joints

A good motivator can inspire aging older adults to chuck off stereotypes about getting older, tossing the canes and walkers – and having a good time in the process.

Rene Swar, wellness director of the nonprofit Rose Villa Senior Living Center in Portland, not only knows how to help others think outside the box, she walks the talk herself.

A member of the International Council on Active Aging, she’s been active her entire life, a value instilled in her childhood. Even now, she participates in Dragon Boat competitions that take her around the world, plays golf and tennis, and swims.

“I’m living what I’m preaching,” she says.

At Rose Villa, Swar plans activities that keep the residents active and happy. It’s a 22-acre campus with distinct neighborhoods and numerous wellness activities. You will not be evicted if you outlive your resources, and you will not have to move from your neighbors and friends if you need assisted care. In fact, care comes to your home.

Every new resident learns that wellness and safety are a top focus of the community philosophy, and are quickly oriented to the activities.

Where some retirement communities offer seated exercises, Swar’s philosophy is to provide boot camps that challenge your body to live longer and more independently. And because the wellness programs are so extensive, new residents are moving to Rose Villa in their early 70s, rather than early 80s.

“We are a life plan community,” Swar says. “Our residents are enjoying life, traveling and staying physically active.”

She motivates residents to realize they can do more than they first believed they could, and many are able to put aside their canes and walkers.

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Rene Swar enjoys competing in Portland’s dragon boat races.

“We break activity into little pieces and have fun,” she says. “But we also explain and talk about the benefit of the exercise, your reaction time, your posture, your gait.”

In Rose Villa’s saline pool, intergenerational programs encourage the younger and older to interact. There are water slides, a “lazy river,” nine resident lifeguards, and family and employee swim times.

“We instill a sense of purpose and accomplishment into our programs,” Swar says. “Our resident lifeguards do not need ladders or steps to slow down response time for any problems at the pool.”

Water aerobics classes strengthen bodies. Meditation classes encourage balance. All classes are provided at no extra charge for residents, although personal trainers and massage therapists are available at an extra charge. In-home care is available for hire as well.

Swar says 82 percent of Rose Villa residents participate in campus activities, including a challenging run course, goat yoga, mandala garden, arts and culture department, and more.

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