As we all age, we want to continue enjoying our activities and living independently. However, our ability to do this into our later years will depend on our physical fitness. This year, we began our Senior Fitness Assessment Program with a pilot program at Pinewood Senior Housing in North Conway. Launched by VNHCH staff Pam Breault-Simpson, PT, and Heather Tower, RN, the goal of the program is to help seniors stay in their own homes with safety and confidence.
“We look at the goals of our participants,” said Pam Breault-Simpson, PT. “Those goals range from personal care activities like getting dressed to lifting groceries or interacting with grandchildren. Our ultimate goal is to help them maintain their independence.”
The program consists of six different assessments to test arm and leg flexibility, arm and leg strength, balance and aerobic endurance. Participants go through a series of timed exercises and the results are compared to scales by gender and age that give normal ranges. “The scale gives us a sense of where there may be deficiencies,” added Breault-Simpson. Once the deficiencies are identified for a participant, that participant is given a targeted set of exercises to improve strength, balance and/or endurance as needed.
The first step in the program is a meeting with participants to review the program and provide medical clearance forms for their primary care providers to sign. This meeting takes place a month in advance to provide ample time to complete the medical form. The day of the assessment, the physical therapists review the body mass index of each participant and do a blood pressure check before starting. About two months after the initial assessment, the physical therapists return to do a follow-up assessment to measure progress and make any needed changes.
“The good news is that many age-related fitness issues are not only preventable but reversible with early detection and physical activity,” said Breault-Simpson. “We look forward to expanding the Senior Fitness Assessment Program to area senior housing and community centers.”
To bring the Senior Fitness Assessment to your group, contact Heather Tower, RN, at Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice of Carroll County and Western Maine by calling 603-356-7006 or 800-499-4171.