Regular physical activity and exercise are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. Studies have shown that exercise provides many health benefits. Older adults can gain a lot by staying physically active. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging (“Even the Elderly Benefit from Exercise”). Regular exercise can prevent or delay diabetes and heart trouble. It can also reduce arthritis pain, anxiety and depression. Mortality rates were also lower in those patients who did not begin regular exercise until late in life compared with patients who were active only in younger years and then subsequently stopped exercising. Thus, it is never too late for patients to benefit from physical activity. It can help older people stay independent (Promoting and Prescribing Exercise for the Elderly).
To promote physical activity for the senior citizens living in the Tangqiao Community Elderly Service Center (Pudong, Shanghai), Project HOPE enlisted the help of Ms. Tingting Zhao, a nurse with a background in music exercise therapy from Shanda University. Music based exercises have been shown to improve gait and balance which can have an impact on fall prevention (Musical Exercise Cuts Falls in Elderly). Ms. Zhao led the music exercise classes which will be held three times a week for 30-45 minute sessions. In her first class at the senior daycare center, the seniors enjoyed exercising to the music and using instruments, such as bells and tambourines, as part of their exercise routine. The seniors were very quick to learn and follow the instructions to the music.
To continue this program at the daycare center, Project HOPE will send 2 local staff members, one from the senior daycare center and one from the community health care center, to classes to learn and become certified in music exercise therapy. After they receive their certification, the staff members will be taking over the classes.
To assess the benefits of music exercise therapy, Project HOPE sent out surveys to the seniors who will be participating in the music therapy class. The first survey is the WHO (Five) Well-Being Index (1998 version) which measures subjective well-being and perceived quality of life. A second survey is “Activities of Daily Living Physical Self-Maintenance Scale” which represent activities that are fundamental for self-care. A baseline survey was given to all seniors before they enroll in the music exercise classes. After 3 months, both surveys will be given to assess if there is any improvement in the quality of life (i.e. mood and energy level). With regular music based exercise classes, the program hopes to increase the physical and mental well-being of the seniors of the Tangqiao Community Elderly Service Center so they can maintain an independent lifestyle.
Leah Bardfield is a Pfizer Global Health Fellow, volunteering for Project HOPE in China from May-July 2013.
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