Frail Elders Get Up and Get Moving at Home...Others Participate in Group Exercise Programs

Adding a Strong for Life physical activity component to Faith in Action projects

From 2002 to 2006, the national program office of Faith in Action® implemented a home-based exercise program designed to improve strength, function and balance in frail older adults at 10 Faith in Action sites.

Faith in Action is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that brings together volunteers from different faiths to work together to care for their neighbors who have long-term health needs.

Key Results:

  • Coordinators at the 10 pilot sites recruited and trained 103 volunteers and enrolled 106 frail older adult participants for the 12-month, home-based exercise program.
  • Seven of the 10 sites continued to implement exercise programs after the first 12 months, recruiting an additional 34 volunteers and 133 participants.
  • Based on these seven sites' continued enthusiasm, the national program office gave them leftover funds from this grant, which enabled them to recruit an additional 76 volunteers and 463 participants and offer home-based and group exercise programs.

Key Findings: Evaluators at the University of Illinois at Chicago reported the following findings in a 2006 article in the Gerontologist:

  • Participants and volunteers expressed satisfaction with the exercise program after four months. At four months, all 63 volunteers still participating in the exercise program and 69 out of 70 older adults still participating felt "excellent," "very good" or "good" about their participation.
  • Some 83 participants turned in an exercise calendar. They reported engaging in exercise an average of 2.2 times per week; 44 of those participants (53%) reported exercising 2 to 4 times per week.
  • Participants had significant improvements in social functioning after four months. The evaluators measured social functioning by the degree to which an individual's emotional or physical problems disrupt his/her normal social activities.
  • The evaluators found no changes in participants' physical functioning, role functioning (the degree to which an individual's emotional problems interfere with his/her work or other daily activities), mental health, health perceptions and pain. There were no serious injuries or illnesses reported.

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