Westmont Magazine A Walk in the Park
Student Kinesiology Project Helps Santa Barbara Seniors Regain Mobility
College students and residents of retirement centers share a common experience: they spend most of their time with their peers. But last fall, they got together to improve the mobility of octogenarians, and both the young and the old benefitted. Students conducted instructive hands-on research, and seniors improved their fitness.
Professor Gregg Afman worked with Vista Del Monte, a Santa Barbara retirement community, to study the use of walking poles known as Exerstriders. With help from Peggy Buchanan, director of fitness, aquatics and physical therapy at Vista Del Monte, he put together a 40-minute video demonstrating how to exercise with the poles. Seven kinesiology majors in his class “Fitness for Older Populations” visited 13 seniors at the facility twice a week to implement the fitness program.
“I think Exerstriders will catch on,” Afman said. “The participants in our study improved stability, mobility and posture. Unlike walkers, the poles allow people to stand up straight. We found that seniors using the poles developed more self-confidence, a better self-image and a greater sense of independence.”
While Afman is still compiling the data, he expects to see significant improvements in upper body muscular endurance and agility. It is likely that balance got better as well.
“On the last day of the research, one of the more frail seniors showed up without her walker, decked out in a brand new sweat suit with a racing stripe down the leg, new shoes and a backpack,” Buchanan reports. “All of a sudden, the participants felt better because they were looking better. They were active and athletic as opposed to old. They were walking with a slick ski pole as opposed to a cane or a walker.”
“It was great for our students to work with seniors,” Afman says. “Few of them had experience with older people, and the study took away their misconceptions about the elderly and fears of getting older.”
Jenna El Fattal ’06 told the Santa Barbara News-Press, “Our generation is so into being young, and we think being old is bad. This class took that away. They have so much wisdom. Just hearing their stories has really encouraged me, just to know that life is good.” The paper published a story Dec. 7, 2004, about the project.
The pole-walking study is the second collaboration between Westmont and Vista Del Monte. The relationship has benefited two 2004 Westmont kinesiology graduates; Katie Hughes and Adrianna Vivas both work at the retirement center.