Springfield College Physical Therapy Department Assists at Massachusetts Senior Games



Members of the Springfield College Physical Therapy Department recently assisted with the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam at the Massachusetts Senior Games hosted on campus.  The exam was created by University of South Dakota Physical Therapist and Geriatric Clinical Specialist Becca Jordre and is designed to test the participants strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, posture, and cardiovascular risk factors.  In the photo above (left to right) are Beth Hayden DPT'14, Nicole Simmonds DPT'13, Springfield College Assistant Professor Kim Nowakowski '91, Rachel Farnham DPT'15, Mary Monahan DPT'16, Aimee Chevalier DPT'16, Olivia Pare DPT'16, Erin Carpenter DPT'16, Kayla Sokol DPT'15, and Jordre. 

Senior athletes recently made their way to the Springfield College campus for the Massachusetts Senior Games. Some athletes had an extra event this year thanks to the Springfield College Department of Physical Therapy. Springfield College faculty member and geriatric clinical specialist, Kimberly Nowakowski, brought Springfield College Doctor of Physical Therapy students and recent physical therapy alumni to assist in providing the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) at Blake Track during the event. 

The SAFE specifically aims to test seniors who are involved in sports. It tests the athlete’s strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, posture and cardiovascular risk factors. SAFE was created by Becca Jordre, a physical therapist and geriatric clinical specialist from the University of South Dakota, who was present for the day. She has been testing senior athletes at state and national Senior Games events for the past five years.

“We’re finding that this population of athletes scores much higher than typical older adults on almost every measure,” said Jordre. “It is so fun to see the physical ability that can be maintained with aging when individuals stay active.”

A unique aspect of SAFE is the regular involvement of student physical therapists. “Physical therapy students often have this idea that seeing older adults might be dull or less challenging, but after testing just a few athletes you really see their perspective change,” added Nowakowski. “It is a perfect service-learning activity.”

Springfield College Doctor of Physical Therapy student volunteers who participated in the SAFE included four graduate students in the DPT II cohort (second year) and 2 graduate students from the DPT III cohort (third and final year). Recent alumni included Beth Hayden, DPT Class of 2014, and Nicole Simmonds, DPT Class of 2013 and physical therapist at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Ludlow, Mass.

Walgreen’s Community Leader in Springfield, Steve Tomaino, donated equipment and tents for the SAFE and Pharmacy Manager at Walgreen’s in Springfield, Christina Vala, was also present to speak with athletes during the screening.

Larry Libow, Managing Director of the Massachusetts Senior Games, was very supportive and invested in getting the SAFE at the Senior Games and everyone involved was happy to report that it was successful event.

Those interested in the SAFE program can e-mail Kim Nowakowski (knowakowski@springfieldcollege.edu) or Becca Jordre (Becca.jordre@usd.edu) for more information.