Active at Home helps keep Mary’s life in balance

RAISING eight children was enough to keep Mary Cairns active throughout her life. Now, at the age of 91, she uses the Active at Home 12-week exercise program to improve her balance and stay nimble.

Mary is about to complete her first 12-week program and is keen to sign up for her second. She has found that the supervised 30-minute sessions, held in her home each week, have helped improve her balance.

And, she says proudly, her daughter has noticed that she is walking a lot better too.

Exercise improves strength and balance

An exercise program had never really been part of Mary’s life but, as she now lives alone, she recognised the need stay mobile and as independent as possible.

“I was more or less an indoor person and not in the habit of exercising. I had eight children to run around after, so not much time to think about it,” she says. “I feel it’s going really well.”

Of the eight strength and balance exercises aimed at improving walking speed, balance and general mobility, Mary likes the leg extensions best, but also finds using an elastic ‘theraband’ helps with her stiff shoulder.

“I can’t do the ones against the wall because I have a frozen shoulder and I don’t really like standing on tip toes,” she says. “But I feel much better for doing the course. It gets me out of bed in the morning.”

Although she leads a busy life and spends a lot of time with her daughter, Mary enjoys spending extra time with her Centacare support worker, who takes her through her personalised program every Friday morning.

Mary was introduced to Active at Home through Centacare Melody Street hub, where she enjoys social connection and a range of activities on Mondays and Wednesdays. She also participates in a group balance class at the hub on Wednesdays.

Photo caption: Mary Cairns arrives at Centacare Melody Street hub.

When Centacare Service Delivery Manager Bernadine Webster gave Mary some information on the program and showed her a video clip explaining what it was about, Mary only had one decision to make – when she could fit it into her busy week!

Mary helps with the housework on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays goes to the hairdresser, supermarket and lunch. This left Friday morning for her exercise program.

She hasn’t looked back since joining Active at Home and has found the exercises complement her Wednesday balance class. After all, keeping active is key to keeping her independence.

“I’d be lost if I couldn’t use my legs,” she says. “As long as I stay at the level I’m at now, I’m happy.”


In-home exercise program “ticks all the boxes”, says Centacare support worker

AFTER a long and successful career managing big supermarkets, Mary Rose was in her 50s when a friend suggested she consider a career in aged care. Now, three years later, she has stepped it up a notch as a fully trained Active at Home exercise program instructor.

Active at Home is a 12-week exercise program designed to help older people increase strength, balance and stamina. The program is undertaken in the clients’ home (alongside a support worker) for 30 minutes each week.

As a Centacare support worker, Mary enjoys helping clients to remain living safely and independently at home. She gives them a hand with their cleaning, takes them shopping and on excursions and, these days, can add personal trainer to that list.

At least that is how her clients describe their weekly half-hour sessions. Mary sees herself more as a training buddy, as she does the exercises with them, preferring to show, not tell.

When the opportunity to become a certified Active at Home instructor came up, Mary didn’t hesitate. By January she had completed her assessments and was certified and ready to go.

“I found it really interesting and I love the outcome,” she says. “While I was doing the course, I began discussing the program and what I would be doing with my clients. They volunteered.”

Practical exercise helps improve mobility

Once her clients had received their doctor’s clearance, Mary assessed their fitness levels and introduced them to a series of activities, tailored to their needs and activity level.

Mary encourages her clients to do some daily exercise in between their 30-minute sessions, simple things like standing on tiptoes from time to time or doing leg extensions while sitting on the lounge.

The exercises are basic and practical, such as getting up and down from a chair – the everyday things that are about retaining lifestyle through mobility and independence.

“These are exercises that you can do at any time of day to improve balance and general wellbeing,” Mary says, explaining that her clients, “see me as their personal trainer and really look forward to it. Some are even wearing gym gear or a pair of joggers.”

But, unlike the demands of the stereotypical personal trainer, Mary understands individual limitations. Regardless, she has found Active at Home participants are choosing to challenge themselves to do better each week.

“It’s about motivation rather than setting unachievable goals,” she says. “They set their own challenges and I’m finding that they want to do a bit better each week and are exercising on their own quite a lot.”

Monitoring exercise progress

Mary documents her client’s progress and encourages them to keep a journal of their own.

Mary’s first recruits are now graduating and following an assessment, will decide if they wish to continue for another three months.

So far, they are keen, excited about the exercise and having a weekly visitor in their home.

“There is nothing but positives in the Active at Home program, which ticks all the boxes,” she says. “I’m so glad I got involved and was able to do it.”