Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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Standing Up for Mobility: Heritage Health Exercise Program Helps Seniors Regain Independence


By Mary Hilbert

Physical limitations are increasingly likely to occur as we age, as
are the number of limitations in adults over the age of 50, according to
a 2001 – 2007 study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
On average, Americans today are living longer and retaining more
independence than ever before, with the onset of many age-related
symptoms taking place later in life compared to previous generations. In
spite of progress made in relation to life expectancy, in 2012 more
than 6.8 million American seniors used assistive devices to help them
with mobility, a number that can be improved. Heritage Health in
Chillicothe, through the application of the nationally-recognized
Stepping On program in conjunction with its own Get Moving program, is
becoming part of the solution for many Central Illinois seniors seeking
to regain independence and physical fitness. Heritage Health is the
second facility in Illinois to utilize the Stepping On program, which
can be tailored to meet the needs of both permanent and RESTORE-to-home

RESTORE-to-home or short-term rehab is a central goal
of the experienced staff at Heritage Health, although many residents
make the decision to stay long term. In-house speech, physical therapy
and rehabilitative services are available to all Heritage Health
residents. Restorative Nurse Jim Cohenour knows that quality of life is
most important when it comes to keeping seniors in high spirits.
Cohenour and fellow Heritage Health CNAs, Sue Farmer and Sue Coffman,
realized that many residents at Heritage Health were having trouble
getting around and were using wheelchairs to maneuver around the
building. The staff knew something needed to be done to help residents
regain their independence and began to search for a solution.

The Stepping On Program
In March 2010, Cohenour and Coffman attended a seminar that
transformed their personal views on how best to approach senior mobility
and inspired Heritage Health to jumpstart a program of its own. The
seminar, presented by the Illinois Pioneer Coalition, featured Mary
Harroun, MS, LNHA, cofounder of the GROW or “Getting Residents out of
Wheelchairs” Coalition. Harroun introduced a ground-breaking program
called Stepping On designed by Lindy Clemson, OT, PHD, University of
Sidney, Australia. The goal of Stepping On is to get seniors out of
their wheelchairs and walking again, maximizing mobility and regaining
strength to perform every day functions such as walking to meals, to the
hairdresser, to the shower, etc.

For many years it was
considered the norm for nursing home residents to sit and move from
place to place using wheelchairs. The GROW coalition makes the argument
that the use of wheelchairs in nursing homes to prevent falls is
treating a symptom rather than targeting the cause of trouble with
posture and difficulty walking and should not be encouraged when

Why “Get Moving”?
inspired by the goals of Stepping On, noticed that the program was
geared more towards residents who were physically strong enough to
participate. Together with his CNA, Cohenour designed a program for
Heritage Health that would help residents to strengthen muscles from
head to toe, even providing exercises for residents unable to stand.
Heritage Health’s “Get Moving” program works in conjunction with
Stepping On to produce impressive results, including increased strength,
improved balance, increased ambulating distance, and higher

How does the “Stepping On” program work?
Residents must be able to at least stand before qualifying for the
free Stepping On program. For Heritage Health residents who meet the
program’s qualifications, Stepping On consists of three forms of
exercise, all tailored to meet the individual needs of the patient:

  • Strengthening:
    these exercises, which include front knee, side hip, calf-raising and
    bladder strengthening workouts are performed three times per week.
  • Weight
    Lifting: as the program progresses, residents may lift between one and
    two pounds. Muscle strengthening is important for maintaining healthy
    bones, and muscle strength is especially important for walking and
    conducting daily activities.
  • Balance: these exercises are
    performed on a daily basis with the resident and include sideways
    walking, heel-toe standing, sit- to -stand and tandem walking exercises.


The length of time a resident participates in Stepping On is
dependent on a number of factors, including physical abilities, whether
the resident is recovering from an injury that required hospitalization,
whether the resident wants to walk or do sit-to-stand exercises, etc.
The program can last anywhere from three weeks to four months or longer
depending on the individual’s situation, and therapy is used for further
assessments in regard to any assistive devices and other therapy needs a
resident may have. So far, the program is having a positive effect on
the Heritage Health community.

“I can get around better and
don’t have to get around in a wheelchair,” said Edith Danner, a four
year resident of Heritage Health who has participated in Stepping On.
Danner does daily exercises with Heritage CNAs, all aimed at improving
her ability to get around. What exercises has she been doing? “I do
whatever they tell me to. I just like it all. You can get yourself to
the bathroom, you can walk outside.”

For more information on Stepping On at Heritage Health, located at 1028 Hillcrest Drive, in Chillicothe, visit or call 309-274-2194.