RHI’s 2013 Rural Health Success Story Contest Winner: Toole County’s Project Activate Program

THE PROBLEM ~ Physical frailty is a leading cause of premature disability and death among older adults and it’s preventable!
THE SOLUTION ~ Physical Activity can prevent physical frailty!
Kay Van Norman
A group of dedicated medical professionals, local government staff and interested citizens have initiated Project Activate- Toole County.  Project Activate is a community-wide initiative that challenges negative stereotype of aging and offers information and opportunities that support physical function and promote vitality through a full lifespan.  The program provides a way for communities to respond locally to the need for residents to improve health and retain vitality.
Shelby has been very proactive in initiating wellness programs within the community.  Area youth are encouraged to walk and bike to school through the Safe Route to School Program and take part in summer recreation activities.  The city has also worked diligently to complete the community’s 5.5 mile recreation trail; improve recreation/sports facilities; and engineer a more walkable/bikable community.  Healthy Toole County Coalition has sought policy change in nutrition, physical fitness and wellness issues within the county and worksite wellness programs have been encouraged.  Now, the community and county are addressing our older population by inspiring an ageless attitude through daily physical activity.

Comprised of the directors of the Marias Heritage Center Assisted Living; Toole County Health Department; Marias Medical Center Marketing, Education and Physical Therapy Departments; Toole County Extension Office; and City Community Development Office –  the Project Activate committee partnered with Project Activate creator, Kay Van Norman to initiate a 6-month pilot project in Shelby and Toole County.  A timeline was established to notify the public of the program and distribute a pre-survey to those interested; seek corporate sponsorship to fund the outreach program; initiate a site visit by project creator, Kay Van Norman to kick off the program; and follow up with educational resources and exercise opportunities.  At the end of the 6-month program a post-survey will then be taken to assess attitudes and behaviors related to aging and physical activity.
The kick- off meetings with Van Norman were held at multiple locations to reach the greater population.  Kay Van Norman, president of Brilliant Aging and creator of Project Activate is an internationally known writer, speaker and wellness consultant.  She brought great enthusiasm and energy to each session and offered a sampling of the resources and physical activities the program is suggesting.
Project Activate reaches out to the public with weekly exercise activity sheets distributed through the Senior Centers and Meals on Wheels Program; Marias Medical Center; Toole County Health Department; Marias Heritage Center; Crossroads Housing complex; City of Shelby; Town of Kevin and Town of Sunburst.  Project Activate program videos will also be presented in the upcoming months at Senior Centers and housing complexes.
In addition, low impact exercise classes are now offered twice weekly through the City of Shelby recreation department and a Fit Club has been established through the Marias Medical Center Physical Therapy Department.  Additional fitness sessions are also offered through the Marias Heritage Center and Crossroads Housing complex.
‰The Activity of the Week (AOW) series – Function based exercises available in full page format to post on bulletin boards, use as placemats in diners/congregate meals/Meals on Wheels or during home-care visits; and in a smaller format  that can be “dragged & dropped” into any existing newsletter or newspaper, used on  table tents, etc.
Project Activate- Toole County is activating an ageless attitude – inspiring daily activity and encouraging a more active lifestyle among our residents.
Submitted by Toole County's Project Activate Program