SPRINGFIELD — Senior athletes recently made their way to the Springfield College campus for the Massachusetts Senior Games. Kimberly Nowakowski, faculty member and geriatric clinical specialist, brought doctor of physical therapy students and recent physical-therapy alumni to assist in providing the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) during the event.
The SAFE specifically aims to test seniors who are involved in sports. It tests the athlete’s strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, posture, and cardiovascular risk factors. SAFE was created by Becca Jordre, a physical therapist and geriatric clinical specialist from the University of South Dakota, who has been testing senior athletes at state and national Senior Games events for the past six years.
A unique aspect of providing the SAFE is the regular involvement of student physical therapists. “Physical therapy students often initially think that working with older adults might be less challenging, but after testing just a few athletes, you really see the students’ perspectives change,” said Nowakowski. “It is a perfect service-learning activity that allows students to see the level of physical ability that can be maintained with aging when individuals stay active.”
Doctor of physical therapy student volunteers who participated in the SAFE included one graduate student in the DPT II cohort (second year) and four graduate students from the DPT III cohort (third and final year). Recent alumni included Kayla Sokol, class of 2015, and Meghan Bradley, class of 2013 and physical therapist at Attain Therapy and Fitness in Springfield.
Walgreens pharmacist Kalani Hornbeak, was also available to answer athletes’ questions about their medications. It was a good opportunity for interprofessional collaboration, which benefited both athletes and students.
For more information about the SAFE, e-mail Kim Nowakowski at email@example.com.