By Skyler Q. Andrews, Staff Reporter, The Augusta Press
Reposted with permission from The Augusta Press.
Residents at senior living community Brandon Wilde in Evans got the chance to start off the year toward more active, healthier lives by undergoing fitness tests from Augusta University providers on Wednesday.
The Senior Fitness Test is an assessment performed by the Augusta University Department of Physical Therapy. Physical therapy doctoral students examine seniors’ overall mobility.
“It’s to see how they’re doing with aging,” said Dr. Colleen Hergott, chair of the physical therapy department. “We test their arm strength, their flexibility, their aerobic endurance, they do a marching test, we test their hand grip, up and down from a chair.”
The fitness test was an initiative that Brandon Wilde had already been coordinating as an annual event, though Wednesday’s assessment marked the retirement community’s return to the program after a hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hergott came to Brandon Wilde seeking opportunities for her students to engage older adults.
“They said, ‘Oh, you can come help us do this,’” she said. “And so we just gradually worked our way in. At first we were just assisting the fitness staff here, and then we gradually kind of just took it over and they let us come in and set it up.”
The tests are designed to focus on movements associated with everyday functions, such has getting in and out of bed, carrying groceries, waving or walking.
“Several of them are balance tests to see how stable people are, or if they’re going to be a fall risk,” said doctoral student Ethan Hewell. “And some test flexibility and mobility: how far can they reach, can they scratch their back or wash their hair?”
A given patient’s assessment is compared to both their own scores from previous years, and to percentile rank averages, norms, for people their age. The data compiled by the students are given to Brandon Wilde’s fitness staff.
“We’re really getting to work with the people who we’re going to be working with,” said Hewell. And it really puts into perspective why we’re going through all these classes and why we’re doing all the stuff we’re doing.”
While Brandon Wilde collects and uses the data, the primary educational objective and benefit for the students is experience of attending to senior patients.
“This is where we actually get to put into practice instead of, you know, practicing on each other,” said doctoral student Kate Lefevre. “We get to come out with real patients. And so it’s definitely a huge part of our learning.”
Residents may sign up to be assessed, and Brandon Wilde offers several classes as part of its Wellness Program to help improve their health in areas the fitness test show need help.
“The H20 balance class is super good for high fall risk people,” said Kathy Randall, fitness instructor at Brandon Wilde. “We do tai chi, which is great for balance. Chair yoga is awesome for flexibility. And then sit and fit is pretty much strength. We do some cardio in there as well.”
The benefit for the people living at Brandon Wilde is a better, and sometimes encouraging, sense of their own health and what to do about any problems they already have.
“I was really impressed,” said resident Becky Jenkins, who was assessed by Hewell and Lefevre. “It was fun, actually. I did more than I thought I would. So it was a positive experience.”