Exercise program encourages Franciscan Ministries residents to climb new heights
An innovative program at Franciscan Ministries’ Francis Heights in Denver, Colorado is breaking down exercise barriers for its elderly residents.
The program, called “Climbing the Heights,” was developed by Resident Service Coordinator Katie Barbier. The goal is to help her residents exercise more and improve their health by doing a simulated walk through the Colorado mountains. For her work on the program, Katie recently received top honors from the American Association of Service Coordinators.
“Our residents lacked physical exercise programs,” Katie said. “Through Climbing the Heights, I wanted to show how simply walking could benefit their health. It challenged them to set personal fitness goals and also increased community involvement.”
To make the walking program fun, Katie and her staff painted a seven-foot mural of Colorado’s lakes and mountains. The mural has a starting point and various milestones marking progress on a 650-mile journey. Residents chose laminated paper figures to represent them as they “climbed” the mountains. To translate miles traveled while walking around Francis Heights, residents were given distances for several locations on the property. These included the stairs, halls, and sidewalks. Swimming, exercise class, and active games were also translated into miles so that they could be added to the activities on the mural.
Helen Nusbaum is one resident who has greatly benefitted from the walking program. At 101 years old, she is the program’s oldest participant, walking one mile each day. “I just don’t feel well if I haven’t done my walk for the day,” she says. Her family even attributes her quick recovery from a broken pelvis to the program.
“We’re seeing many benefits from the program. It has allowed our residents to be independent and help themselves to feel better. They have decreased depression and lost weight through the power of walking,” Katie said.
Helen has become the poster child for Climbing the Heights, encouraging other residents to be active.
“You just have to get out there and do something,” she says.