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Shirkey Nursing and Rehab now offers “sports medicine for 95 year olds”

Calvin Stephens is 82 and he is building muscle.
Stephens began weight and strength training last week at Shirkey Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the program, “Freedom Through Flexibility,” self-described as “sports medicine for 95 year olds.”
The program began last week at the facility after occupational therapists completed a two-week training.
The strength-building program comprises five pieces of Nautilus equipment, targeting specific areas of the body for seniors. Leg presses help seniors with balance, gait and walking speed. Another machine strengthens neck muscles to hold one’s head upright. Stronger neck muscle improves people’s ability to breathe, eat, speak and swallow better. Triceps presses help seniors to get out of a chair or bed easier. The compound row machine improves posture, and a back machine helps relieve back pain.
Occupational Therapist Ashley Branch would make any personal trainer proud.
“You can do 90 pounds,” she tells Stephens. Easily mastering 50 pounds, an additional 40 pounds are added to the Nautilus machine.
“Keep going, just a few more times,” she says. Stephens takes her advice and does the reps on a leg press weight machine under the watchful eye of Cathy Saladino.
“It can be prevented [loss of strength],” said Branch, who is with Aegis Therapies, a national physical rehabilitation company that contracts with Shirkey Nursing and Rehab. “We don’t become weak because we’re old, we do because we become inactive.”
Chris Brown, Shirkey Nursing and Rehabilitation Center administrator, says nursing facilities have evolved, and the goal is for clients to rehab and return to their home.
“People thought, ‘This is your last stop’ in the past [about nursing facilities]. Last year, 67 percent of all admissions that came in rehabbed and went home,” he said.
Brown said the strength-training program will be open to area seniors in the future.
Photo: Cathy Saladino, an occupational therapist assistant, shows Calvin Stephens of Kansas City how to properly use the Nautilus machine to strengthen his legs, at Shirkey Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Richmond last week. (Photo by JoEllen Black/The Daily News)

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