The LIFE (Local Inclusive Fitness for Everyone) program aims to promote health, wellbeing and social inclusion for people with disabilities. Phase 1, also sponsored by Bank Australia and run in partnership with Moe Life Skills Community Centre, offered an inclusive 16-week pilates program to clients with high or complex needs, and members of the local community. The ultimate aim is to develop an evidence-based physical activity program that is inclusive of people of all abilities.
Monash University research partner, Dr Eli Ristevski, said people with profound or severe disabilities often miss out on vital physical and recreational activities because daily activities focus on health needs or communication difficulties. “But it’s been shown that physical activity has numerous benefits for physical and psychological wellbeing,” said Dr Ristevski. “The opportunity to take part in activities with other members of the community also enhances social connectedness and community inclusion for people who are often isolated.”
|Inclusiveness team (L-R): Carole Broxham, CEO MLSCC; Anna McKenzie, pilates instructor; Sharyn Thompson, MLSCC; Dr Eli Ristevski, Monash University.|
The sessions were run by an accredited physical education instructor. Each session was followed by morning tea and an opportunity for all participants to socialise. At the end of phase 1, all participants were interviewed, with an adapted interview tool used for people with limited communication. And the results were promising.
Moe Life Skills Community Centre clients all enjoyed the program and wanted to continue in the future; so much so they were willing to pay for it themselves now that NDIS funding can be used for physical activities. They were also happy to recommend it to others. Community participants also enjoyed the program. It gave them an increased sense of purpose and an opportunity to give back to the community. They too were happy to continue and to recommend it to others.
While phase 1 focussed on clients with high or complex needs, phase 2 will be open to anyone with a disability and all members of the Moe community to join in.
In the meantime, results from phase 1 evaluation are being analysed and the team hopes to present their findings at conferences next year and publish their results, which will also contribute to establishing a research profile for Moe Life Skills Community Centre.