Staying physically active as we age takes more than will power and stick-to-itiveness. Seniors face special challenges as they stop driving, budget for fixed incomes and adjust exercise to their changing bodies. The Community Services Agency in Mountain View is piloting a program to address the transition.
A partnership among CSA, El Camino Hospital’s RoadRunners transportation program and the El Camino YMCA aims to make fitness accessible. Still in its nascent phase, this spring the program extended scholarships to five seniors in the community who needed help getting to the YMCA and paying for senior-fitness activities. Tangible results are the goal – quality-of-life improvements that also combat chronic health conditions.
“Clients who before weren’t able to bend over to put on their socks and shoes, now they can,” said Megan Perdue, senior services program director at CSA. “We have clients who generally only get out of the home to go to the doctor. In the class, they can make friends and increase their mobility.”
In the Chair Exercise class at the YMCA Thursday afternoons, seniors with a range of mobility stroll, cane and wheel into the classroom. To a background of dance music, toe-touches and arm-raises get bodies moving. Two nursing students have been following this year’s scholarship class – since February, they’ve recorded improvements in strength and endurance after participation in the once-a-week class.
Perdue said CSA hopes to pursue grant funding to expand the scholarship program to more clients. Each year the nonprofit serves approximately 300 seniors with a range of financial resources. The case management that CSA provides comes free of charge and is open to everyone.
“We’re trying to keep people living independently, longer,” Perdue said.
The Chair Exercise class is also open to all, although scholarship recipients must be able to transfer into and out of a volunteer’s car independently.
The RoadRunner program at El Camino Hospital draws volunteers from around the community to drive seniors not just to medical appointments, but also on other errands such as grocery shopping and visits to the Y. The service is typically provided for a fee, hence the need for a scholarship partnership.
In addition to measurable fitness effects, Perdue noted that the classes appear to make people feel better about themselves on an emotional level as well as report reduced pain.
The nonprofit’s team of social workers and a nurse conduct home visits where they talk with seniors about how to enhance their quality of life through socialization, transportation or handling medical-care logistics. Giving seniors a chance to stay in their homes, if they want to, instead of moving into nursing homes is a major target for CSA, according to Perdue.
“We’re there to show them all the options they can bring into the home to stop that from happening,” she said.
Private donations support 70 percent of CSA’s work, but the agency also relies on partnerships with local agencies such as the new Chair Exercise effort.
For more information on CSA, visit www.csacares.org.
Resources exist to learn at-home chair exercises as well. The Health Trust, a local nonprofit, publishes a “Healthy Steps in Silicon Valley” guide providing active living advice for locals over 50. See a sample below. Copies are available at CSA, 204 Stierlin Road, Mountain View.
Exercises for hands
• Fist and fan: Squeeze your hands into fists. Hold for 5 seconds. Then spread your fingers as wide as you can – like a fan. Hold for 5 seconds. Do 5-10 times.
• Wrist circles: Hold your hands straight out in front of you. Circle both wrists in one direction 5-10 times. Then circle them the other way.
Exercises for feet
• Ankle circles: Lift one foot. Circle it 5 times in each direction. Repeat with the other foot.
• Point and flex: Point your toes away from you for 5 seconds. Then pull them back toward you (flex) for 5 seconds. Do 5-10 times with each foot.
• Squeeze and fan: Squeeze your toes together like a fist. Hold for 5 seconds. Then spread your toes as wide as you can – like a fan. Hold for 5 seconds. Do 5-10 times with each foot.
1. Sit tall.
2. Raise one foot straight out in front of you.
3. Keep the back of your thighs touching the chair.
4. Return your foot to the floor.
5. Do 8-12 times on each side.
Seated overhead stretch
1. Sit tall.
2. Lift your arms and rib cage up.
3. Clasp your hands and reach up to one side.
4. Hold 15-30 seconds, breathing normally.
5. Do 3 times on each side.
To request a copy of “Healthy Steps in Silicon Valley,” call the Health Trust at (408) 559-9385 or visit www.healthtrust.org.