St. Jude Community Homes provide housing and medium-low support to single adults who have been diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness. We offer each week a new theme or genre of music (e.g., the 80s) for residents to warm-up by dancing, doing light aerobics or just walking on the spot. We use chairs to help with balance for standing exercises, but they also are used for exercises that can be performed while sitting. The majority of participants are seniors, and so the exercises are generally quite gentle.
Residents often try to guess what the song title is, as well as the artist, and we all have fun singing along. We try to promote a very casual environment that welcomes people who would not normally attend a vigorous fitness group. Walking groups are often common, as well, when the weather permits. We try to take advantage of the wonderful parks and neighbourhoods that are nearby.
Usually this is run on a Sunday, and afterwards an activity called "Community Kitchen" takes place. As a group, residents help prepare a nutritious meal. This is in place to teach residents about preparing healthy foods, as well as promotes a supportive community environment. A nutrition group often follows this activity as well.
St. Jude Community Homes also facilitates a Diabetes Group, where residents who are living with diabetes, or are at risk of developing the condition, gather to discuss ways to stay healthy. A smoking cessation group is also offered to residents who are considering quitting the habit, or are continuing to abstain for smoking and just need the occasional support.
A few challenges with the program include space limitations, motivation and appealing to a diverse group. We have limited space in our common area, which provides a challenge for indoor physical activity. There is not much room for floor exercises, or having a large number of participants. However, it has proven difficult to get residents interested or motivated to participate in a fitness group in general.
There is also a wide range of ages at St. Jude's, so creating an activity that appeals to everyone has been slightly difficult. Luckily music speaks to every generation, and this has been a good way to bring everyone together. That being said, the majority of participants are seniors. Hopefully, with some encouragement and a more current music selection, younger residents will become interested in joining in.
There has been success in developing peer leadership. In the Movement to Music group, residents are encouraged to suggest exercises they would like to try. The residents also help create the playlist by requesting genres of music or specific songs, which makes the class more enjoyable as it appeals to their tastes in music. The Diabetes Group now meets frequently without a facilitator. Residents are able to access their supplies and resources, and meet around meal time to discuss a variety of topics, even though there is not a staff member to prompt or lead them. This has been quite a triumph for this group of residents.
For more information, contact:
Shannon McCauley, Program Resource Worker
St. Jude Community Homes
Phone: 416-703-7222, ext. 326
E-mail: smccauley [at] sjch [dot] ca