How Rock Climbing Brings New Adventures to Assisted Residents

Emily Cozzetto, Director of Resident Enrichment, The Palisades at Broadmoor Park

Assisted living facilities often offer a variety of activities to keep residents engaged and active. These activities may include swimming lessons, yoga and group exercises. But in late April, residents of The Palisades at Broadmoor Park, an assisted living facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado, tried a new kind of activity: rock climbing.

New activities and new heights

Emily Cozzetto, director of resident enrichment at The Palisades in Broadmoor Park, explains that while rock climbing may not seem like the most natural solution for older people, it actually offers several key benefits. “I had heard that there was a group of older, long-time climbers who frequented the climbing gym in the area,” says Cozzetto. “The gym also offers adaptive climbing options. Given the health benefits, I thought this might be a challenge for some residents.

She notes that climbing can help improve cognitive function, as climbers must map and solve the puzzles posed by climbing routes. Climbers exercise their core and build strength, which can support balance and muscle tone in older adults and help reduce the risk of falls. “With a driven stint, there are no jerky movements, so it’s gentle on the joints,” notes Cozzetto.

She explains that since none of the residents who signed up for the event had ever climbed before, there was some trepidation. Although the fear of the unknown was the source of most concern, some residents worried that they would not be able to physically climb the wall, while others worried about their safety. “We decided as a group to proceed step by step,” explains Cozzetto. “Our experienced instructor and belayers were able to allay most fears. In the end, if anyone decided not to participate, it was entirely their choice. But, everyone has climbed the wall at least once.

New future adventures

The climbing event was a success in many ways. Palisades staff were thrilled and supportive of residents. Since some staff go rock climbing, they were able to make a personal connection with the residents. The event was featured in the media and other residents were thrilled to see their Palisades neighbors on the news. “For some, it made them consider trying something new. For others, it was just a sense of pride in their community,” says Cozzetto.

Given the success of the event, Cozzetto plans to offer another climbing session. “A number of residents, who now see how fun it can be and who didn’t attend before, would love to go,” she says. “I also hope to return to our original group.”

Rock climbing is just one way Cozzetto keeps residents fit and engaged. The Palisades offers a signature fitness program called MBK FIT. “As Director of Resident Enrichment, I work closely with our Director of Fitness to provide residents with fun new activities that support the body and mind, and connect with their hobbies and their interests,” says Cozzetto. These activities include line dancing, meditation, yoga, and hiking. In addition to these fitness activities, the program offers a weekly American Sign Language class, pub trivia, and interactive learning and activities on the iN2L system.

Residents can also expect to take part in new activities and adventures, thanks to the creation of an Active Adventurers Club. “Right now we’re planning a skydiving trip, but some of the other ideas include a hot air balloon ride and rafting,” says Cozzetto.