Active Living: Here’s why we keep walking at St Louis Nursing Home

A Q&A with Jenny Mildred – St Louis Adelaide Physiotherapist

Jenny is the resident Physiotherapist at St Louis’s Nursing Home in Parkside, Adelaide. She shares how and why she’s committed to keeping our residents physically active, especially walking.

Having worked as a physiotherapist for over twenty-five years, she’s spent sixteen of those years at St Louis. Jenny looks after our residents in our nursing home as well as home care clients in the community.

Staying physically active as we grow older is essential to both physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Retaining muscle condition prevents frailty, reduces the incidence of falls and maintains confidence and a sense of overall wellbeing.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends that older adults over 65 years should do 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, which is 21 mins per day. This includes walking. If you walk for only 150 minutes per week, it significantly reduces your risk of heart disease, heart attack and also a stroke.

In the following Q&A, we asked Jenny about her work keeping our residents active.

What do you enjoy about your work as a physiotherapist?

“My work involves regular and close contact with elderly people, and I love it. I enjoy listening to life stories of people, what they’ve done and where they’ve lived, not just helping people achieve their physical goals. My job allows me the time to listen to people and build a relationship with each resident. And I value their honesty. They’re not afraid to speak the truth, to tell you what they want and how they feel. Not only does this make for some wonderful conversations, it also helps me understand their care needs better.

Also, we don’t have any agency staff here at St Louis, so we see the same people every day. We’ve all got to know each other very well, both staff and residents.”

What are the main health benefits of walking?

“The physical benefits are many:

  • People develop stronger bones
  • Their cardiovascular and pulmonary health improves, that’s basically your heart and lungs
  • They experience less symptoms of existing conditions, for example high blood pressure and high cholesterol will reduce
  • Joint and muscular stiffness reduces
  • People’s balance improves balance and the risk of falls is reduced
  • It elevates their mood and sense of wellbeing
  • Vitamin D levels are increased when walking in the sunshine.”

What makes it such an ideal exercise for older people?

“Walking doesn’t need any special equipment, it doesn’t cost anything, you can do it anywhere and anytime. It improves dynamic balance and reduces the incidence of falls which is a significant benefit for older people who risk becoming frail.”

How do you help your residents stay active at St Louis?

  • “We’ve created walking groups and take people for walks in the local area
  • We take people for one on one walks
  • We have twice weekly chair based exercise classes
  • When the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, we’ll resume our swimming program.”

How are you managing residents’ walking activity during COVID-19 lockdown?

“The COVID-19 lockdown obviously changed our walking programs. We’re committed to keeping people active so we walked in the courtyard and corridors of the nursing home at the start when we couldn’t venture outside. As restrictions eased, we were able to take residents for a walk in the fresh air as long as we were within 500 metres of the nursing home. We’re still doing this today.”

Why is exercise so important as people get older?

“When it comes to physical wellbeing, if you don’t use it, you eventually lose it. As people get older, their muscles lose strength and condition. More concerning is the less they move, the more they regress and lose confidence. So staying physically well is as important for physical health as it is for mental and emotional health.

I continue to encourage people to have confidence in physical movement because the more they move, the more expanded they feel. The less they move, they can lose perspective and their world can close in. Movement makes them feel better about themselves.

I like walking one on one outside with people living with dementia. They come alive and smell the flowers, and begin to communicate in their own way. A good walk in the fresh air enables conversation or interaction.”

Why do you love working at St Louis Aged Care?

“Physiotherapists in aged care traditionally don’t stay that long. The fact I’ve been here for 16 years speaks to what a wonderful atmosphere the residence has. We don’t employ contractors, all staff are permanent employees which fosters a close, connected culture and sense of belonging.

Every day I go home and I feel I have made a difference to someone’s day. It may not even be related to the physiotherapy I do, but when we walk and talk so much is shared. It’s wonderful that I can make a positive difference to someone’s day like this and that mine is also changed for the better.”

Keep walking for good health and call us about how you can stay fit and well as you get older

St Louis has several physical activities for residents throughout the week. Other than walking, we have chair-based weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercise classes using weights and bands. We’re also approved to run COTA’s Strength for Life Classes for residents as well as visitors which will begin again once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

We’re also introducing more walking-based groups and exercise programs which will be posted on our Facebook page and on our blogs, so stay tuned for more to some.

We embrace Active Living, no matter what your age or ability, to live the most rewarding life possible. We embrace this approach in our care delivery to our home care clients and our nursing home residents.

St Louis offers residential care from our nursing home in Parkside, home care and respite care to people in Adelaide and Victor Harbor. We have independent living units right next door to our nursing home if you want to be close to a loved one, or you want to share the services and facilities of the nursing home.

Phone us on 08 8332 0950 for a free and no obligation, confidential conversation about your aged care options. It’s never too early to start planning ahead for you or your loved ones.

Want to learn more?

Man walking