To meet the needs of any community member who may walk into your facility, it’s important to offer a variety of adaptive fitness programs. At the Mittleman JCC in Portland, Oregon, a number of programs are set in place to serve members with special needs.
A staple program that aids in serving members is aquatics. “Our aquatics program offers both children and adult swim lessons, as well as aquatic rehabilitative therapy in our warm water pool,” said Jennifer Harrington, the Mittleman J’s assistant executive director. “In addition to our main parking lot and locker rooms, we have a warm water pool parking lot in which members who have mobility challenges can park and check in through a back secure door that gives them access directly to our warm water pool locker rooms, specifically designed for those with special needs.”
Possibly one of the simplest ways to provide adaptive fitness in a facility is through the equipment offered. “In addition to treadmills, bikes, stair-climbers and elliptical machines, we have a NuStep, Krank Cycle, Concept II Ski machine, a rope trainer, and Adaptive Motion Trainers,” elaborated Harrington. “Our fitness floor also has a stretching table for those who are unable to get down to the floor level to stretch.”
Depending on your demographics, some members may be more interested in an adaptive group exercise program. The Mittleman J offers two types of classes: paid-for and free. The free group classes include gentle yoga, Tai Chi for fall prevention, osteoarthritis Pilates, senior strength and balance and chair yoga.
Paid-for classes include exploring balance with Alexander technique, and safe falling with intelligence and style. “Our member base has a large percentage of seniors, so we cater to this group,” explained Joe Seitz, the fitness program manager at the Mittleman J. “Although the ability levels vary dramatically, it is important to have a starting point for those who have been told to begin some form of exercise.”
According to Seitz, it’s important to create an inviting community that provides a network of support and understanding that may be missing from current trends. “It has been shown that developing functional strength and endurance can be critical for establishing balance and the capacity to safely perform daily activities,” he said. “Often, the goals here are to maintain independence, avoid costly hospital stays, and be able to enjoy life in later years.”
While programming for adaptive fitness is certainly necessary, the key to implementing these programs and making them effective is dedicated staff. “I have worked for a variety of fitness centers throughout my 25-year career in this industry,” said Harrington. “And I can say confidently that our staff goes above and beyond in accommodating our members by ways of calling for transportation, assisting in the locker room and the pool lifts, or simply holding doors and escorting those who need a bit of extra help.”