How working with older adults changed my life

My name is Christina Nowak and I’m one of the co-owners of STAVE OFF.

As we start on our physical location, I wanted to take the time to share my story; what brought my fiancé and I here to this point in our life, and how working with older adults really did change my life.

I’m a physiotherapist by background and I’m currently doing my PhD at McMaster University in the School of Rehabilitation Science looking at prevention of disability and healthy aging.

I decided that I wanted to go into physiotherapy when I worked with a young man who had had a brain injury. As a high school and university student, I volunteered at the local hospitals because I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Working with this young man completely changed my perspective. I saw his long road of recovery. He was wheelchair bound when I first started working with him but eventually he had learned to stand up again! Then he was able to walk with a walker. Finally, after 3 years, he was rehabbed home! The impact that that has on a person’s life is nothing short of incredible and it completely changed my mind. I applied for physio that year.

In physio, because of that experience and my undergrad being in neuroscience, I thought that I was going to go into neuro (working with people who have had a stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, stuff like that). I was also a competitive CrossFit athlete and loved sports and weight lifting. It isn’t until I reflect back on all of this that I see that my journey was pretty much paved out for me all along.IMG_1588

After I graduated, I started working in two clinics: one had a publically funded program for adults over 65 and it was largely an exercise-based rehabilitation program, the other was a CrossFit gym. The exercise-based rehab program showed me that exercise alone can have HUGE results. At the CrossFit gym, I started working with some of my older clients in the exact way that I would work with my younger athletes. I would get them under a barbell. Practicing physiotherapy, I have a unique skill set that allows me to focus my exercise-prescription to their rehab program and cater to individuals who may have illness or chronic conditions that would effect their ability to exercise. Persons who have a fear of falling are another example.

I started seeing some really interesting results: my athletes at the CrossFit gym were getting so strong! Their pain was better! They got to this point where they didn’t have any more physiotherapy goals but I wouldn’t want them going to just ANY person or gym.

So I started the Boomers program.

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The Boomers program is a 2-3x/week strength training/interval training program that keeps you strong, healthy and active regardless of your age or medical history. Anyone can join! Exercise can be scaled for anyone! It is also the template that we use for PRIME here at STAVE OFF.

The effects of this program got me to do two things. The first was to create STAVE OFF. It started as a content site where I posted my workouts, blogged about experiences and just shared information. It was a ROUGH looking website let me tell you. The second thing I did was apply for my PhD. I had done research in university and always had this love for it. Seeing the effect of my program and its ability to help PREVENT issues from happening in the first place was something that I felt was a gap in the literature. One that I could help fill.

As I was developing my thesis project and contributing to the STAVE OFF website I began to see this need. A need for work that focused on healthy aging and preventing disability so that members of our community could stay in their homes for longer.

I also just LOVE it. Everything about what I was doing. The people I was meeting. The research I was reading. All of it. I realize it as I talk about it… my voice gets more animated, I get excited to go to work… it all leads to this calling. This knowledge that THIS is what I’m supposed to do.

All of these things together created a series of amazing events that set up the brick and Messages Image(888036311)mortar shop we have today. We decided that we were going to try to fill this need. Integrate these concepts into a product that we can hopefully share with everyone. It’s going to be a long road but my fiancé and I are excited to get started on it.

There is so much need for stopping things from happening in the FIRST place, not reacting to them when they do! I think this is the way of the future – the way to reduce health care spending, to allow our older community members to stay independent in their home, to let grandparents continue to play with grand children. Someone needs to spearhead these programs.

Here’s to STAVE OFF. May it make the impact it aims to make and continue to grow in the process.Picture2

Thanks for listening to my story 🙂


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