Sneakers not Slippers – Promoting cross-cultural connections and enhancing the health of multicultural seniors

Dr Myrla Sales1, Mrs. Zeinab Hussein1

1Migrant Resource Centre North West Region Inc., St Albans, Australia

Abstract:

Aim:
This study aims to examine the effect of a 12-week outdoor senior exercise park program on social connectedness, feelings of loneliness, wellness and independence in multicultural seniors.

Method:
Multicultural seniors from the Migrant Resource Centre North West Region Inc. in Melbourne participated in a 12-week outdoor senior exercise park program. Measurements of loneliness, wellness and independence (e.g., balance, muscle strength and physical function) were compared between baseline and at 12 weeks. Participants undertook an interview to explore their perceptions (e.g., acceptability of the program and perceived benefits achieved from participation) of the program.

Results:
Twenty participants (18 females, 63.7 ± 6.9 years) completed the 12-week exercise program. A reduction of 18% ± 31% in loneliness was demonstrated. The largest improvements observed in wellness were: physical (8% ± 23%), social (8% ± 14%) and occupational (6% ± 23%) wellness. Independence has improved via improvements in overall muscle strength (6% ± 22%), functional lower extremity strength (6% ± 16%), dynamic balance (24% ± 38%), static balance (148% ± 269%), walking (10% ± 19%), and agility (4% ± 11%). Participants reported that the exercise program improved their physical and psychological well-being and facilitated new social connections.

Significance of the findings to allied health:
The preliminary results of this initiative demonstrated the positive effect of the outdoor senior exercise park program on seniors’ social connectedness, feelings of loneliness, wellness, and independence among people from multicultural background.

Biography:

Dr. Myrla Sales is an accredited exercise physiologist with extensive clinical experience in the management of chronic/complex health conditions (e.g., psychological, metabolic, cancer, cardiovascular, kidney disease, musculoskeletal, neurological and respiratory conditions), injury prevention and reduction of risk factors for falls on ageing groups.

In the last five years, Dr. Sales has been using the novel and innovative concept of outdoor senior exercise parks to improve seniors’ muscle strength, balance, physical function, quality of life and social connectedness.

After being an academic at Victoria University for four years, she now coordinates a community program run by Migrant Resource Centre North West Region Inc and funded by the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet (Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship) which aims to enhance participation of multicultural seniors in exercise and to improve their social connectedness.