Caring for the elderly is a win-win for Rosemary Mowat, who spends her time facilitating physical activity for people aged 55 and over to contribute to their wellbeing.
“Over the years, I have seen participants improve their physical and mental health. Me too, to be honest,” said Mowat, who volunteers as a fitness instructor for the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) in Barrie.
The exercise program, called SMART (Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together), includes a 50-minute routine with warm-up, cardio, cool-down, coordination, resistance, balance, flexibility, stretches and relaxation.
Mowat says Barry Today Many of the participants have some sort of limitation, so everyone is encouraged to follow at their own pace and sit down if needed.
“The program is divided into standing and sitting. However, all the exercises can be arranged to be done while sitting,” she added.
In addition to helping Barrie’s seniors improve their overall performance, Mowat says he enjoys the interaction that is a natural part of the workout sessions.
“I love social occasions. It’s important to keep the mood light and have some laughs. “
While paid fitness instructors are used to lead the classes, trained volunteers are an important part of the low-impact exercise program, which is fully funded by Ontario Health and free to participants.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have dedicated volunteers who believe in and support our mission to help our clients live healthy and active lives,” said Jennifer McClellan, Home and Community Care Manager at VON Canada’s Simcoe County branch.
She noted that VON Canada is stronger because of its volunteers.
“The people who volunteer for VON are incredible human beings who are incredibly passionate about their work,” McClellan said.
McClellan explained that the importance of VON Canada’s volunteers is reflected in the charity’s commitment to providing them with a high level of orientation, training, mentorship and ongoing support.
VON currently runs 74 Smart exercise classes in Barrie each week at 36 different sites, she said.
“Each month, volunteers in the Barry SMART program dedicate an average of 130 hours to our group and in-home exercise programs,” McClellan added.
McClellan believes the positive impact of the SMART program and the incredible work of VON’s staff and volunteers can be seen throughout the Simcoe region. As an example, she recalls a client who suffered a medical setback due to heart health.
“After joining our twice-weekly outdoor walking group, he was approved for the surgery he needed, thanks to the VON Smart activities he participated in,” she said.
Last year, the VON Barrie Adult Day Program (ADP) moved to a new location in Barrie and completed a renovation to create a better location for our ADP members.
“We have approximately 70 seniors attend our Barrie ADP each week, providing many caregivers with much-needed respite,” McClellan said.
For the in-home respite program, VON currently helps 29 clients each week, giving caregivers about 280 hours of respite, according to McClellan.
They also noted that as a registered charity, they rely on donations to fund essential programs and services.
“Donations to the Simcoe County Vaughan location help purchase equipment and supplies for CSS (community social services) programs that may not otherwise receive funding,” she said.
McClellan also calls on new volunteers to “join the thousands of VON volunteers helping make communities healthier.”
Those wishing to give back through VON Canada programs can apply by clicking here.
As for Mowat, she helps out at different locations for VON Canada in Barrie.
“I volunteer with VON because they have a history of helping others. And that nature of caring carries through to how they treat and appreciate their volunteers,” she said.
Learn more about VON Canada at www.von.ca.