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Staying Active and Socially Connected: The Rocky Mountain MS Center’s Empower Program

The Rocky Mountain MS Center has adapted several programs to continue providing support services and social connection opportunities that our MS community counts on through disruptions to in-person activity caused by the pandemic.

The King Adult Day Enrichment Program (KADEP) provided dynamic virtual activities, programs and classes to our clients while the program was closed to in-person attendance. MS 101 classes, Conversations on MS Q & A events, and Education Summits were all adapted to serve our community remotely as well.

When the pandemic began, our Hydrotherapy Program was suspended for the health and safety of our participants as community pools closed. Led by Physical Therapist Michele Harrison, an online exercise program was quickly developed to help keep hydrotherapy participants active and socially connected. Since then, the MS Center’s Empower Program has continued to grow and strengthen.

Thanks to a grants from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and The Anschutz Foundation, the Empower Program has been able to bring these opportunities to even more individuals. As part of this program, Harrison leads twice-weekly seated adaptive exercise classes via Zoom that include strengthening, stretching, and cardiovascular training exercises. Each class also includes mind-body Qi Gong and Tai Chi practices. The program has also hosted social hours, trivia and game nights, and craft activities for participants.

“The chair exercises have provided a real workout for both my mind and body,” explains participant Jane Smoak. “Michele suggests options so that I am able to modify each exercise according to my body’s changing abilities each day and she has a real knack for making classes fun. I appreciate her encouragement and humor as I strive to keep my body moving!”

“The seated exercise and mind body practices have been a great way to help people stay active during these most strange times,” says Harrison, a physical therapist who’s worked with MS patients for more than 20 years. “I know that participating in a group is really beneficial to assist people stay engaged and consistent in an exercise program. The group helps each participant be a part of community, which has been lacking during the pandemic. That has really made me so aware of the importance of the exercise, activities and community.”

“This has not only been a great program for physical exercise, but also provides positive impacts for my mood and energy level. I love having something on my schedule that makes me feel connected and purposeful,” says participant Stephanie Beckman. “I particularly love the Qi Gong mindfulness practices at the beginning of each class and I’ve been incorporating those throughout my day. I’ve been able to take what I’ve been learning and add those practices into my own wellness plan. Being able to turn on my screen and be connected to a wonderful community has been so amazing and helpful for me.”

Are you interested in learning more about the Empower Program or joining our Online Exercise Classes? Please contact Kerri Cechovic, Senior Director of Programs, at kerri@mscenter.org or 303-788-4030 ext. 109 to learn more.

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