ODPHP is working with 4 pilot communities to implement the Move Your Way® campaign for specific audiences. Each community is focused on a specific population — teens, older adults, pregnant and postpartum people, or Spanish speakers.
Physical activity can be especially important for older adults because it can improve daily quality of life, physical function, and the ability to perform activities of daily living. Despite the many benefits, less than 14 percent of adults age 65 years and older met the recommendations for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity in 2018. To increase the number of older adults engaging in physical activity across the 5 counties it serves, Active Southern West Virginia (Active SWV) returned to ODPHP’s Move Your Way pilot program.
Getting Creative to Reach Older Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Active SWV knew that reaching older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t going to be easy. Given that older adults are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, maintaining public health safety measures was at top of mind for the organization.
Active SWV brainstormed ways to engage older West Virginians outside traditional programming and instead reach them where they already were. As such, the organization developed at-home exercise packages filled with information and resources that older adults could use to begin building a daily activity routine from home.
The packages included Move Your Way materials, the National Institute on Aging’s Get Fit for Life resources, exercise bands, pedometers, chair activity bingo cards, an armband to hold a phone, and more. Active SWV and its partners promoted the packages locally, and any interested older adult could have one delivered to their door for free.
“We received so many phone calls from individuals requesting the exercise packages — and who also wanted to share their fitness routines, goals, and challenges,” says Melanie Seiler, Active SWV Executive Director. “We talked about ways they could be active safely in and around their homes or with family members who were also trying to be more active.”
The Value of Partnerships
These efforts would not have been possible without the Active SWV partnership network, which provided support and helped promote the exercise packages. For Active SWV, working alongside senior service providers, local aging commissions, and health care professionals was a natural way to spread the word about the exercise packages. Active SWV also engaged with the public at local libraries, farmers markets, schools, and parks and recreation organizations to make sure people across the age spectrum were aware of the campaign and could spread the word to older adults in their lives.
Long-Term Move Your Way Integration
Implementing the Move Your Way campaign isn’t just a short-term project for Active SWV. Throughout implementation, Active SWV has integrated the Move Your Way campaign philosophy and messaging into internal and external facets of the organization — from staff and volunteer training to community engagement.
“Participating in the Move Your Way pilot program has really reiterated the value of health education and promotion efforts,” Seiler says, describing how the traditional model of many local physical activity nonprofits, including Active SWV, focuses on in-person programming.
Reflecting on Active SWV’s experiences as a Move Your Way pilot organization, Seiler concludes, “Reaching out to physical activity contemplators — people who aren’t already active — and developing relationships that can support the behavior change required to build a more active lifestyle is so important and is something we’ll continue to do beyond the pilot.”