The Smart Program Changing Lives

By Kelly Gee in Community

Declines in flexibility, stamina and strength were once considered an inevitable consequence of aging but studies have proven that with exercise many of these functional losses can be reversed in even the frailest and oldest men and women.
Maureen Black had always been a very active senior. She loved walking, playing cards and was a member of various community groups and clubs. After the death of her husband, Maureen’s life was different and she started to spiral down the frailty cycle. She was plagued by multiple health problems including Heart Disease (Atrial Fibrillation, Congestive Heart Failure & Coronary Artery Disease), COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Peripheral Edema, Macular Degeneration and Sleep Apnea. These medical conditions contributed to a general feeling of exhaustion and a lack of ability or motivation to be more mobile. Her reduced mobility contributed to weakness and reduced balance which resulted in a fall that left her with a large contusion on her upper right arm and a limited range of motion in that arm. When Maureen visited her doctor, she was put on oxygen for her COPD and warned that he would be required to permanently revoke her driver’s licence if her physical conditions did not improve. It was at this time that he also recommended her to the VON SMART program.
When the SMART program coordinator and Volunteer Glenda Rose worked with her the first time, Maureen struggled with most of the exercises. Her maximum repetitions for some exercises were 2, she had to end her 3 minute walk after 1 1/2 minutes and needed 2-5 minutes rest between sets to get her breathing back to a normal rate. At the end of the session she was very tired but acknowledged that she had enjoyed the exercising and was determined to improve her fitness level. Maureen was adamant she was not going to lose her driver’s licence. Glenda being impressed with Maureen’s positive attitude was eager to help Maureen accomplish the fitness goals she had established.
Maureen’s optimistic attitude and the once a week SMART in home visits prompted her to exercise on her own as well. After 6 weeks Maureen was doing the exercises at least 3 times on her own and once with Glenda. She had increased her reps to 10 and was walking for 5 minutes. Having completed her 12th SMART program session, Maureen is capable of completing 15 repetitions, maintains that she feels better, has more energy and will continue to keep up with the exercise. On her last visit to the doctor Maureen was taken off oxygen and given permission from her doctor to drive again!
Maureen’s story is an acknowledgement that exercise will improve our ability to function any age or fitness level. Frailty is a state that is reversible and people can transition from frail to fit. The VON SMART program is an excellent facility for seniors looking to improve fitness, health and vigour.
The VON SMART program needs more Volunteers like Glenda! If you would like to make a difference in a senior’s life helping them stay active and independent by encouraging them to practice the 14 exercises of the VON SMART in-home program please contact Client Care Coordinator Kelly Gee at 519-323-2330 ext 4953 or email her at