Physical therapy students and The Thrive Center partner on elder wellness

May 23, 2019

Video courtesy HeartLegacy
Students in Bellarmine University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program are helping support elder wellness in an innovative new partnership with The Thrive Center. The program, “Strive to Thrive,” is designed to promote healthy aging through the use of technologies like virtual reality, motion/balance sensors, high-tech clothing and more. 
Located in Louisville’s NuLu neighborhood, The Thrive Center is a nonprofit education center whose mission is to help people aged 50 and older live healthier lives through the use of technology. The collaboration with Bellarmine physical therapy students is designed to help seniors prevent falls, improve balance and live independently.
“I heard about the Bellarmine program with Thrive so I immediately signed up and I’m glad I did,” said Hiram Hogg, a participant who suffered a spinal cord injury in 1981. “I didn’t think I could do it myself but I can. More important is my confidence level, where I find myself going to a museum where I would have sat it out, now I feel comfortable walking on those long, smooth floors,” he said. 
The program is also helpful to those who haven’t suffered an injury like Hogg’s. “I used to say, ‘Well, I’m in my upper seventies and I don’t need to be that strong,’” said Dottie Lockhart, another participant in the program. “Now I feel like I can do anything. I don’t need to slow down or give up.”
The students, too, get tremendous benefit from the program. Caroline Coleman, a third year physical therapy student from Mississippi, said she was attracted to Bellarmine because of the physical therapy program’s service-learning clinics.
“This program has been phenomenal,” she said. “We were able to design and program a framework that is sustainable and that physical therapy students in the next cohorts can step in and continue. That’s so important because they’ll be doing this for other people in Louisville. There is a need for this in the community.”
Coleman, who didn’t know a soul when she moved to Louisville, also valued the interpersonal and networking aspects of the program. “We sought to boost the participants’ mental and physical well-being and they offered me just as much support,” she said. “We love and adore every single one of our participants. It was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve ever had. I’m very grateful to Bellarmine and to Thrive.” 
In addition to this collaboration, several faculty members and students from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program have worked collaboratively with the Thrive team on a number of research projects, said Dr. Tony Brosky, dean of Bellarmine’s School of Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences.
“We’ve conducted several small clinical projects in cooperation with the Thrive Center that have involved gait and balance screenings, assessment of handgrip strength, the effectiveness of orthotic inserts on balance, and physiologic effects of cold and compression,” he said. “I think we are just at the beginning stages of this exciting partnership.”

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