Eighty-year-old fitness enthusiast

“Right now, I am in the best condition any 80-year-old man could be,” smiles Bill Bush, a member of the Westend Seniors Activity Centre (WSAC) in Edmonton. The centre supports healthy and active aging for seniors.

A few years ago, you wouldn’t have believed him. “Bill was in terrible shape,” says Haidong Liang, Project and Facility Manager at the centre. “We see a range of people and abilities, but he was one of the worst."

“I was always dizzy and would fall down on a weekly basis, even though I was using a walker,” admits Bill. “I’d hit my head, break my glasses and go to the hospital to get patched up. It was so bad that my doctor recommended primary care."

Instead of being admitted into hospital, Bill attended a 12-week course at the Misericordia Hospital for physical therapy. “I went from being incapable of very much to fairly capable of the things that an old person should do. But I wanted to get stronger."

Luckily, after the Misericordia's program ended, funding support from the Network of Excellence in Seniors’ Health and Wellness (the Network) helped the WSAC launch “Seniors Helping Seniors,” which trains, motivates and supports seniors to improve their fitness levels and eating habits.

Bill pulling down 70 lbs. When coaching, he uses the machines in different ways that are more comfortable for seniors.

“Personal trainers are expensive and may be intimidating,” says Haidong. “With this program, seniors can ask for help from their peers."

The goals of the project were to improve the fitness knowledge and function of seniors, and then have those seniors motivate their peers to follow in the same direction.

Bill's strength, balance and flexibility have improved thanks to Seniors Helping Seniors.

After only three months in the program, Bill’s flexibility improved and his medications were reduced by one-third. He progressed from relying on a walker to using a cane. Today, he doesn't need any help to get around. “Now, if I’m on the ground, I am able to roll over and get up myself. I couldn’t do that before. When I fell down, I was down,” he says.

“Successful aging means you get to a certain age without any health problems,” says Haidong. “Because of the program and the help he received, Bill is now successfully aging."

Bill is a great role model for his friends who want to be more active. He does 200 core exercises every morning and visits the WSAC three to five times a week for cardio and strength training.

Being a Peer Leader and Health Ambassador at the WSAC, Bill is qualified to assist other seniors to use the fitness room equipment. He also informs his peers of the various classes offered at the facility. Bill and Haidong agree that the program’s success is due to the combination of the qualified staff, the dedicated participants and the great vision from the Network.

Haidong thinks Bill’s story is a miracle. Bill just laughs: “It’s all thanks to this program. Haidong and his team have been instrumental. I’m nothing but a lucky old man."

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