Hospital Therapists Lead Exercise Programs at Community Center, Help Seniors Prevent Falls

Door County Memorial Hospital Rehab Services therapists are not only devoted to helping others recover from injury and illness in the hospital. They contribute their skills and time in the community by teaching seniors exercise programs and routines.

Kelley Hutchison-Maravilla, an occupational therapist, teaches a tai chi fundamentals course at the Door County Senior Resource Center, Sturgeon Bay. And Jerry Johnson, a physical therapist, volunteers his time at the Senior Center, educating seniors about exercise and appropriate use of equipment.

By taking their expertise and interests beyond the hospital’s walls, the therapists aim to prevent injuries – especially the kind that can occur when seniors fall as a result of inadequate balance and fitness.

“Fall prevention is an important focus in geriatric health,” Hutchison-Maravilla said. And studies have shown that people who practice tai chi have less chance of falling.”

Other health benefits associated with practicing tai chi are improved flexibility, relaxation and decreases in blood pressure and heart rate, she added.

The tai chi fundamentals course is held at 3 pm on Wednesdays and runs for six weeks. Interested people, who do not need to be seniors, can contact the Senior Center to confirm the schedule and check on fees ($3 per session).

Johnson, another of Door County Memorial’s therapists, volunteers time on his day off, Tuesday, to get seniors going with an exercise program.

He shows people the equipment housed at the Senior Center – ranging from a NuStep machine and treadmill to free weights and stationary bikes. Handouts supplement Johnson’s talk, providing detailed information about exercise room guidelines, safety and benefits of exercise. The appointment, which must be pre-arranged, lasts about 30 minutes with an opportunity to meet again or ask Johnson follow-up questions.

Johnson said he likes to see seniors exercise and, thereby, take a proactive approach to preventing falls, which are prevalent as people age.

“Fitness and exercise will reduce your risk of falling,” Johnson said. “Exercise increases your balance. So the fall risk is a lot less.”

For more information about programs at the Door County Senior Resource Center, call 920.746.2542.