Local | Mind, Body & Spirit | Senior Lifestyle

Elder Rehab powers retired Tucsonan toward the century milestone

Lee Chutkow accepts an award certificate from Elder Rehab coordinator Sharon Arkin, recognizing his nine semesters of continuous participation. (Courtesy Arkin)

Lee Chutkow, M.D., 92, has a goal: To reach his 100th birthday.

In pursuit of that goal, Chutkow, a retired psychiatrist, classical music maven, and Shakespeare and poetry buff, keeps his mind and body active through the Elder Rehab program at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

Five years ago, when Chutkow started noticing problems with his short-term memory, he spotted a notice announcing a new program at the Tucson J for individuals with just that problem. The unique feature of that program was its assignment of a University of Arizona student intern to each participant to be a buddy and coach for 20 two-hour exercise, memory- and language-stimulation sessions per semester. “These one-to-one sessions with a young student are a highlight of his week,” says Pamela Heiman, M.D., the care manager who coordinates Chutkow’s activity schedule.

Chutkow enjoys educating his college student partners about his favorite composers, and his partners play his favorite pieces on their smartphones during aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises at the gym. His daughter, Jenny Baldwin, credits Elder Rehab’s balanced exercise regimen, plus regular physical therapy sessions and a positive attitude, with enabling her father’s speedy recovery after several falls and hip injuries.

Psychologist Sharon Arkin, who developed and coordinates the Elder Rehab program, marvels at Chutkow’s passion for music. “I’ll never forget running into Lee with his caregiver, slowly making his way in the dark on his walker over the uneven grassy field between the Reid Park concert stage and the parking lot! A lot of my much younger friends won’t venture out after dark.”

Chutkow is a season subscriber to the Tucson Symphony and Southern Arizona Symphony and has a vast collection of classical music CDs and an impressive library of books. He also has season tickets to The Rogue Theatre, where he especially enjoys Shakespeare productions.

Arkin has supplemented Elder Rehab’s cognitive activities manual with books of poetry and Shakespeare play scripts for students to use with Chutkow during sessions. Credit for contributing to his well-being, she says, must also be given to his beloved dog “Penny,” a constant companion on his walks around his residence at Via Elegante Assisted Living.

Chutkow is one of only two individuals who have been participants in every one of Elder Rehab’s nine semesters.

Elder Rehab currently is accepting applications for its fall 2019 semester, which will begin the week of Sept. 16.

The program is for memory-challenged older adults who are ambulatory (cane or walker OK), says Arkin. The cost of the program is $275 per semester for 20 two-hour sessions.

For more information and an application form, contact Arkin at 603-2912 or sharonmerlearkin@gmail.com.