Ted Phillips loves to dance, but it had been a decade since he was able to manage it on his own.
Shortly after moving into Royale Place Retirement Residence in Kingston, Ontario, he joined the Live It Fit Everyday (LIFE) program—a personalized 8-12 week physical activity program geared towards resident mobility goals.
Since signing up, his mobility has improved to a point where he began thinking about dancing again. Now, for the first time in years, the 88-year-old former university librarian is dancing regularly, and started off with his walker to a K.D. Lang song.
“I thought, wow, I can do this. I can move my feet to the music,” said Phillips, and wondered if he could take it to the next level and dance with a person.
“Once I got going, it just felt natural, and made me feel good all over that I was able to do it after all these years.”
Phillips started dancing as a teenager, and was a regular at the Friday night dances at his high school. After he got married, he would regularly go out dancing with his late wife.
“I did it for so long. It was just part of my life,” he said.
But that was before his wife had dementia and moved into long-term care, and he slipped on ice and broke his kneecap and arm. And while a lot had changed in his life since high school, his love for dancing has not.
With the support of student occupational therapists and team members at Royale Place stepping in as dance partners, Phillips has noticed how much his mobility has improved. He has already gone through LIFE twice, and is signed up for a third session.
This recreation and leisure program was developed by Royale Place’s parent company, Sienna Senior Living, in partnership with the University of Toronto’s occupational therapy team. It is designed to improve balance, flexibility, confidence, and overall well-being through engagement in tailored physical activity specific to every resident, and each residence.
LIFE is available as a signature retirement program at all 23 of Sienna’s owned and managed retirement residences in Ontario and BC. Building on its success, the LIFE long-term care program has recently undergone a successful pilot, and is being rolled out across the organization’s care communities.
Sheena Brazeau, a lifestyle consultant at Royale Place, says that every participant of the mobility program has increased their ability in some way, even if just by a small amount.
Phillips moved into the residence just under two years ago, and quickly discovered a preference for one-on-one sessions with LIFE therapists who could lead him through the exercises. They also provided movements for him to do on his own.
Student occupational therapist, Thushanthi Balakumar, has been working closely with Phillips during his second round in the LIFE program.
“We practiced dancing to one song,” said Balakumar, “and at the end of the track he hugged me and said, ‘I can’t believe I did it!’ I could see the joy in his face every time I glanced up to look at him.”
“I was as happy as a clam,” said Phillips with a laugh. “If clams can be happy.”
Balakumar slowly increased the number of songs they danced to, and employees at the residence often saw him dancing on his own with his walker.
Since his involvement with the program, Phillips has danced with five people including his two daughters.
You can watch a video of his story here: