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Grazie Cecilia! Arrivederci!

Cecilia and CCAA participantIn 2008, the University of Western Ontario and the University of Verona in Italy developed a partnership to provide exchange opportunities to Masters and PhD students. Each University is involved in research in the field of exercise physiology, fitness appraisals and outreach programs for physical activity for older adults.

This partnership and the subsequent exchange program led Cecilia Bellotti to the CCAA in June this year. In 2008, Cecilia completed her Masters in Science of Preventive and Adapted Physical Activities for the Elderly and began her PhD projet entitled: “The functional evaluation of a tailored exercise prescription for the elderly”.

We recently asked Cecilia to write a few words about her experience at the CCAA. Her response warmed our hearts. Here are her thoughts.

Three months are gone; they run as fast as my friend Bob and my friend Pam when Sergeant Debbie commands them to ‘RUN!’ during the gym class at the CCAA. Yes, just like that, adults who are 80 years old or more (I will not call them old because the only thing that is old is their date of birth) run, walk and are more active than their 10-year-old grandchildren and great grandchildren. The same children that consider gaming on the Playstation a form of moderate physical activity. And for the children ‘intense’ is when they are racing to avoid a spanking because they have not turned off the TV yet ... it’s incredible but true!

For the participants in the CCAA classes, time seems to stand still and even seems to go backward. Many scientific studies show the benefits of physical activity and if you look at people who have been attending the gym classes for only a month, you can see the positive effects with your own eyes. I can think of one individual that after three weeks achieved significant improvements of balance and walking.

But beyond the 'magic’ of the CCAA (I hope I have learned all their tricks!) in the past three months I was able to expand and deepen my knowledge and skills in physical activity programs for adults and older adults, in the tests for functional evaluation, and in the strategies and ways of dealing with this age group to make it possible for physical activity to become part of the lifestyle of these people.

Project Coordinator, Dana Van Gorp also had an opportunity to sit down with our resident Italian and learn more about her, the research she does and what she really thought about her visit to Canada. Here is what Dana discovered.

ccaa exercise groupCecilia spent much of her time at the CCAA observing and participating in the CCAA’s in-house exercise programs and fitness appraisals. She appreciated learning the strategies used to keep motivation at a high level, the organization of the CCAA in terms of promoting and developing exercise programs for different functional levels and learning how to apply for funding.

She exchanged ideas with Program Director Clara Fitzgerald, Research Director Don Paterson and with their collaborators in order to better understand and learn some strategies in the hopes of developing an organization similar to the “CCAA” in Italy. When she returns she would like to increase the number of seniors who take part in physical activity classes and influence their fitness and independence levels. Cecilia hopes that they will feel happy and good about taking part in exercise classes because they will begin to see how important and useful it is for them (starting with her Grandma). She hopes to apply her experiences first in Verona, where she lives and studies, and expand from there.

When asked what the differences were between Italy and Canada with respect to physical activity and aging she says that seniors in Italy are very afraid that physical activity will be dangerous for them and don’t know that there are many advantages including the independence it can give them. At the CCAA, she found people are very motivated and that they work hard for their health, more than in Italy. She hopes to convince Italian people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to take part to a regular physical activity program.

Reflecting on her experience in Canada she says she felt very comfortable here. She appreciated the good organization of the CCAA and the competent people that work there. She says that she’s met many very nice and gentle seniors here. She really liked Canadian barbeques, potlucks and picnics with traditional homemade foods! She even had time to enjoy Ontario, the wonderful green spaces and parks, lakes, nature, Niagara Falls and also the cities of Toronto and Ottawa.

We enjoyed having you Cecilia! We look forward to continued collaboration and friendship upon your return to Italy.  Arrivederci! 

 

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Clara Fitzgerald
Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging
Phone 519.661.1603
Fax 519.661.1612
Email: cfitzge4@uwo.ca

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