Balancing on one leg to open the Leith Park exercise park

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Balancing on one leg to open the Leith Park exercise park

August 8, 2019

The eight-station exercise park for seniors was opened in a novel way, with Commissioner for Seniors Victoria, Gerard Mansour standing on one leg.

The outside exercise park is the only one of its kind in a retirement village in Victoria; there are two others in public parks.

The Commissioner was joined in the one-legged standing opening by CEO Phillip Wohlers, Director of the National Ageing Research Institute Associate Professor Briony Dow, and OCAV volunteer Liliana Diaz Tornros.

The new seniors’ exercise park has been installed in partnership with the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) with funding from Perpetual’s 2018 IMPACT Philanthropy Program and Gandel Philanthropy. Lark Industries supplied the eight exercise stations tailored to older people, designed to improve strength, balance and mobility.

The exercise park is central to a trial conducted by the National Ageing Research Institute to see whether senior outdoor parks help to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as improve physical health.

“This is an exciting first step in a two-year research program called ENJOY which will determine whether older people get as much out of play as pre-schoolers in terms of physical and mental health,” OCAV’s Chief Executive Officer Phillip Wohlers said.

Over one to two years, research participants will access the exercise park in a group and receive instruction from an exercise physiologist from NARI. Participants will also receive an initial assessment and their progress will be monitored by NARI. Physiotherapists have already trained volunteers and independent living residents to use the equipment and will be on hand for support when needed.

“What we are hoping is that the exercise park and program will begin to make sure all of our residents incorporate regular exercise into their lives,” Mr Wohlers said.

NARI Project leader Associate Professor Pazit Levinger said that findings from a past study revealed that participants improved muscle strength, balance, and physical function.

Physical activity is strongly recommended for older people to reduce health problems, but less than 25% of older Australians do enough physical activity to achieve health benefit.

Pete Zawacki drove to Leith Park twice a week to visit his mother, Helen, until her death a year ago. After she died he wanted to honour her memory and ‘repay’ the kindness staff showed her by volunteering.

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