Aging individuals (50+) in the Mount Pearl region were invited to participate in a four week pilot program focused on physical activity, from September 11th-October 6th, 2017. Project goals included (1) the development, implementation, and evaluation of a four week physical activity pilot program for aging adults to be delivered at the Mount Pearl Summit Centre, and (2) identify barriers and facilitators to participation in an adult aging physical activity program. The program is geared towards the older adult transitioning into a health conscious retirement. Funding for the program was provided by Memorial University of Newfoundland Office of Public Engagement Quick start Funds.
This is an innovative project in that no other similar program exists at the Centre, which is concerning given the aging population in this region. Although there are many gyms within the vicinity, they do not provide the one-to- one support and mixture of diverse activities that are tailored to aging adults to help them sustain their pre-retirement level of activity. In addition, the group setting provides a social venue which can decrease ones' sense of isolation.
The program was delivered by a registered fitness instructor in affiliation with the community group Splash n’ Dash and the City of Mount Pearl. Splash 'n' Dash is a well-established group that offers a multitude of physical activities focused on improving the health and well-being of adults. The city of Mount Peart provided the physical space for the event (e.g. recreation facilities and equipment). The program took place at The Mount Pearl Summit Centre at 0930, five days per week for a period of one month. Recruitment was conducted via diverse methods; an email invitation through the Splash 'n' Dash website and Summit Centre social media. Training included 30 minutes of body strength building followed by 30 minutes of physical activity (e.g., swimming, biking, running, walking, and yoga). The program was free for participants. The program was evaluated at the end using a short likert style questionnaire comprised of seven questions. Participants were also given the opportunity to provide feedback on three opened ended questions that asked them to comment on the positive aspects of the program, suggestions for revisions and program cost. In recognition of their participation in the program participants were provided with a catered lunch at the end of the program. Based on the findings recommendations for improvement and implementation to the program were made to the Community Service Department/Summit Centre Management.
Sixteen people were recruited for the pilot program. Participants were both male and female and ranged from 51-76 in age, with the majority of the participants having retired from the workforce. The results suggested that the program was successful as a pilot, with 81% of participants stating that they strongly agree with participating in a similar program in the future and 0 participants stating that they would not consider similar programs. 100% of the participants felt that the methods of the instructor were clear, concise, and knowledgeable, and that the variety of exercises was appropriate for the class. 91% of participants felt that the time of the classes was appropriate and that participation increased their sense of well being, while promoting a positive outlook on healthy aging. When asked about three specific things that were liked about the class, the variety of the exercises, ability to be self-paced, instructor’s motivation and enthusiasm as well as the positive social experience were evident. Suggestions to improve the class included having a wider variety of available weight options for the exercises, having a smaller class size, increased availability of pool time. Most participants felt that either a one-time fee for registration for a similar program or a per-class fee was an appropriate fee structure. Given the overwhelming about of positive feedback from the pilot participants, it is evident that the initiation of a program such as this would be a positive step towards achieving active and healthy aging while decreasing social isolation for adults moving into the retirement stages of their lives.
Summary of Recommendations:
1. Continue with existing time slot 0930.
2. Include a variety of exercises in program.
3. Increase time allotted to pool activities.
4. Develop a formalized cost structure.
5. Decrease class size.
6. Continue with Splash n’ Dash as primary delivery mode of classes.
7. Integrate self-paced exercise into instruction.
8. Increase weight options for exercises.