Helping seniors be Active for Life

Judy Murray
Judy Murray experienced the benefits of the Port Williams Active Aging Program

When Judy Murray was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease, it was a lot to cope with, mentally and physically. She wanted to exercise but the seniors’ exercise programs offered in her community didn’t offer the kind of specialized instruction she needed. When a doctor referred her to the Active for Life Initiative, Judy “decided to get up and go.” It turned out to be just the right prescription.

Active for Life was established with funds from Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Chronic Disease Innovation Fund, the Lawson Foundation and the Eastern King’s Memorial Health Foundation. These funds enabled the hiring of a kinesiologist, as well as the purchase of equipment and space for exercise programs around the Annapolis Valley. Participants like Judy first meet one-on-one with a kinesiologist to discuss their needs, and topics such as barriers and motivation. They are then referred to community programs or provided with an individualized exercise program. Judy was referred to the Port Williams Active Aging Program.

“The young people that taught the program were so knowledgeable,” says Judy of Kinesiologist Kelsey Brumm and the Kinesiology students from Acadia University who facilitated the program. More than that, Judy says, “It was their upbeat and positive personalities that won my heart!”

Active Aging sessions are offered twice a week for 10 weeks, with each week focused on a single theme, such as balance, posture, breathing or flexibility. Kinesiology students and graduates work with individuals and the group to ensure safety and help participants meet their goals. For Judy, one of these goals related to balance, a challenge of living with Parkinson’s disease.

“At the start of the session, I was unable to put one foot in front of the other with my hands out. By the end of the session I was able to do it. It was something I could actually measure because I could see the difference.”

Judy found the program so beneficial she recruited her husband, Michael, who has severe osteoarthritis. He too has experienced the program’s benefits. Judy promotes the program to friends too.

“It’s very affordable and so supportive. When you go, you just give your best. It isn’t just the exercises. It’s the people.”

The Active for Life initiative is part of the national Exercise is Medicine® program. Dr. Jonathan Fowles, Chair of the National Advisory Council for Exercise is Medicine, Director of Acadia University’s Centre for Lifestyle Studies, and Active for Life board member, says, “We are developing programs that engage the community in physical activity programming that is educational, fun and appropriate to individuals with a range of needs.”

Kesley Brumm, Kinesiologist, says the true measure of success can be seen in participants’ progress. “The improvements I have seen in program participants make me extremely proud of what we are doing and even more passionate about what we could offer in the future.” As for Judy and Michael, they’re hooked. They’ve just begun their next Active Aging session.

For more information about Active for Life, please call Acadia University’s Centre of Lifestyle studies at 902-585-1618.

Active for Life is one of many initaitives supported by a Chronic Disease Innovation Fund (CDIF) grant in 2016-17. Applications for the 2018-19 CDIF grants are now open. This fund will support new programs, or enhancements to existing programs, that help Nova Scotians live healthier lives, and reduce the effects of chronic disease. For more information, a full application and guidelines, visit