Allegany County Growing Stronger has been sighted as a model program by the New York State Office for the Aging for its overall effectiveness, successful evaluation process and use of incentives to enhance program objectives. This evidence-based senior strength training program is based on Tufts University's John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition’s StrongWomen Program and is endorsed by the National Arthritis Foundation and the Osteoporosis Prevention Association. Allegany County Growing Stronger participants must receive physician approval to enroll and subsequently meet two times/week for one hour. Each session consists of a warm up, a cool down and a prescription of exercises that are simple, safe and effective for older adults. Volunteer peer-leaders direct each class with guidance and program oversight conducted by Ardent Solutions.
Supported by Allegany County United Way, the Growing Stronger program involves strength-training exercises that have been shown to increase the strength of one’s muscles, maintain the integrity of one’s bones, and improve one’s balance, coordination and mobility. In addition, strength training can help reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic diseases and can help reduce seniors’ risk of falling. It can be very powerful in reducing the signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions, among them arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, and depression.
Barbara Cronk, 79 years-old from Belmont, NY, has been actively participating in the Growing Stronger program for over eleven (11) years. Barbara is the Growing Stronger co-leader for the Belmont site. In the winter of 2009, Barbara suffered a broken right arm after falling eight feet off of a ladder and onto concrete. In the fall of 2010, she suffered a broken left arm after a motorcycle accident. Despite two severe arm injuries in the span of one year, Barbara was able to return to Growing Stronger each time with the support of her Doctor and her then Growing Stronger Volunteer Leader, Joanne Hoagland.
“I took the list of the exercises with me to the doctor after I broke the first arm and he encouraged me to go back to Growing Stronger after I completed Physical Therapy,” explained Barbara. “The doctor was onboard with me returning to Growing Stronger because a lot of the exercises in the program were similar to the ones in Physical Therapy,” continued Barbara. “The doctor and I were convinced that I would be able to make a full recovery from each accident because I was already strengthening my muscles. I was back in class roughly eight weeks after surgery on my broken right arm and within one week after having surgery on my broken left arm.”
When Barbara was asked why she continues to participate in the program she stated, “I think it’s good for me. At my age if you stop and just sit, you can lose all of your muscle tone and balance and then it all goes to pot.”