It’s never too late to better your health — and it always helps to have a community around you for support and accountability. That, plus the belief that aging does not have to equal frailty, is the premise of Project Activate®, an award-winning wellness initiative developed by Brilliant Aging founder and healthy aging expert Kay Van Norman. Working together, Parish Health Ministry (PHM) and Brilliant Aging adapted Project Activate to be effective in the PHM partner churches and retirement communities.
“No matter your age, it can be a struggle to get into a healthy routine,” says Cindy Hamad, RN, Program Coordinator for PHM. “Having a step-by-step program like this really helps in establishing those habits and improving the quality of life for seniors.”
This innovative program emphasizes independence as we age and offers a toolkit of high impact resources for creating a healthier lifestyle. Participants are inspired to move from intentions for aging well into action.
A Promising Outlook
In 2018, the ERS community Marlowe Court kicked off Project Activate in partnership with PHM.
“Project Activate has given me something to look forward to on Mondays,” says Marlowe resident Johnette Key. “I’ve enjoyed getting to do the group exercise with my neighbors. Before Project Activate, I was pre-diabetic. I needed to make a change for the sake of my health. Since starting the program, I have lost about 20 pounds and kept my A1C down, which means I have lowered my risk for developing diabetes.”
“What our seniors love most is getting together for the chair exercise classes that I teach,” says Affordable Living by ERS Wellness Director Caroline Rapier. “We have yet to have a class without any laughter present, and to me, that’s pretty exciting.”
Caroline Rapier, Wellness Director for Affordable Living by ERS, Marlowe Court resident Johnette Key, and Cindy Hamad, RN, Program Coordinator PHM, have witnessed the success of Project Activate®.
Caroline recently completed post-fitness assessments at Marlowe Court to measure changes from those who participated in the first Project Activate program as well and the group exercises classes that she carried out once the 9-week program was over. “Those results were phenomenal. I was very pleased with all of the improvements we were able to capture — be it physical, mental or emotional,” she said.
Eight residents completed a pre- and post-program fitness assessment. Across the board, there were significant improvements in upper-body strength, lower-body strength, flexibility, agility, and endurance. Some individuals improved in multiple areas and maintained in others — which is still an improvement since the rate of decline can be significant as we age. “I had one resident who told me her goal was to improve her upper-body strength. According to her assessment, she more than doubled her bicep curl test!” Caroline reported. “To which she said that was a newfound motivation for her to keep up with the program!”
Continued Stories of Success
As of 2020, Project Activate has been implemented at 6 of our Affordable Living Communities — and the stories of success keep coming. Caroline noted great participation and engagement in wellness at the ERS-managed Maple Knoll Meadows (MKM) community, in particular.
Residents finished the 9-week Project Activate program and are now continuing wellness through weekly group exercise classes. Recently, Caroline spoke with one resident who parked her walker and said “Caroline, I want to show you something! I want to show you what all of your work has helped me be able to do…” Then, she walked from one side of the room to the other without her walker!
Other residents at MKM have shared with the Wellness Director that they were unable to do certain exercises like shoulder presses at the beginning of the program, but now can do all 12 repetitions.
“The greatest thing about wellness at Maple Knoll Meadows is the community we have developed,” Caroline explains. “Everyone walks into class like family and is always encouraging others around them. It’s a very unique class feeling, and I think that is why it has been so successful at Maple Knoll.”
If you’re interested in bringing Project Activate or another PHM wellbeing program to your church or community organization, then visit parishhealthministry.com or call Jeanne Palcic at (513) 979-2238.