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CAPS: Community, Attitude, Posture, Strength

We want to use facilitated group walks with walking poles to improve seniors' physical strength, posture, attitude, and community.

Photo of Rhiannon Gallagher

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

Our idea works for any senior, but it is particularly designed for those who are recovering from illness or injury and have lost confidence about their ability to walk, connect, and build strength. We think the ‘best life’ is one with health and community. We feel community brings about a more hopeful and active attitude, posture improvements bring safer movement and protection from falls, and strength brings both protection and easier recovery.

Too often, we see fear of falling or frustration with fall recovery keep seniors in their homes and off their feet. We think this idea can help, we just need the OpenIDEO community to help optimize it.

We know that:

  • community is key to a thriving longevity, and walking in community feels safer because you won’t be alone if you fall
  • attitude is improved when people are getting outside and getting contact with and support from their peers
  • posture is improved by use of walking poles, which keep the back straight and the person upright and balanced, reducing their fall risk
  • strength is improved with regular pole walking, so falls are both less likely and less devastating. Poles are better for upper body strength and for cardiovascular health than regular walking.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have been facilitating group walks in our community for about three years. Most of our walkers are seniors, and two of our octogenarians are helping to design this project. They have been teaching others, both healthy folks and those recovering from injury or illness, how to use the poles on their walks. So we know, anecdotally, that it works. But we haven’t had the resources to roll it out on the scale we’d like or to document the evidence in more formal ways.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would love ways to bring senior walkers out, particularly methods that don’t require a lot of technology savvy. We’re local right now, we need ideas about scaling up. We’d also like ideas on how to convince places like Senior Centers and Care Facilities to take the leap and let their residents/clients outside for a walk with us. Finally, the poles are an expense for people on tight incomes. We need funding ideas and creativity from the community.

How long has your idea existed?

  • Over 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

My background is in user experience research and design for web applications and software. I’ve learned that you can’t design without your target audience in the room, making sure you reflect their values, language, and approach. I also lead walks with Walk2Connect, where I met Harold and Betty.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Rhiannon. This is such a great initiative. What is the issue with Senior Centers allowing seniors to join your walks? In NYC we have a Big Apple Walking Club for Seniors. This is in collaboration with Senior Centers.
In terms of poles have you considered using ski poles in addition to trekking poles? That might increase the pool available? Have you thought about contacting local Good Will and other thrift stores and asking them to contact you if people donate poles? Maybe your senior walking group, in partnership with local community members, can do a Walk to Raise Funds For More Poles Event, like a 5K for senior wellness? (not sure how far they walk, maybe a 2k?)

Sounds like a lot of fun! Hope you can expand to other communities!

Photo of Rhiannon Gallagher

So many good ideas!
1. I think the Centers that provide day services are an easier sell than residential facilities.
2. Ski poles are a little different, but they are more affordable.
3. I love the thrift store idea.
4. Our current walks are about 3 miles, I like the fundraiser idea.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi again! Wouldn't it be great if there was a "Go Fund Me" type of service where one could ask for donations of things, such as walking poles, rather than money?
I wonder if linking a fundraiser walk with a request for donations of poles, in addition to raising money, might get the word out for donations?

Have you thought about recruiting seniors to join walks via partnering with community health centers? I wonder if they might want to partner as a way to encourage seniors to exercise while providing a fun, social way to do it? This might also serve them in terms of highlighting fall prevention for their community? Also, they are part of networks. Maybe a way to scale the idea?

Photo of Rhiannon Gallagher

Thanks so much. I love your Go Fund Me idea - I'm doing a walk next week about borrowing shops, which might be an interesting option as well. Harold and Betty do a "Walk with a Doc" that is, I think, associated with Denver Health, so it might be a good model for the kind of partnership you're talking about. I also wonder if the reason that walk works is that people are more willing to try walking if they know there's a medical person walking with them.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

This is great! I had never heard of "Walk With A Doc". ( I am a doc, so thanks for sharing this! I am a pediatrician.) I briefly checked their website. There are walks throughout out the US. Not sure if the motivation is that a doctor is there. I was thinking they might like it because it is a group and social. Maybe ask Harold and Betty why the walkers keep showing up for that walk to get insights?

What do you mean you are doing a walk about borrowing shops? Is this part of the sharing economy? Intrigued to learn more.

Photo of Rhiannon Gallagher

I'm so glad to help you discover Walk With a Doc. I don't know that it's an attraction, it's just a theory that maybe people who are worried about falling might feel better that way.

Borrowing shops are like tool libraries, but for general stuff - they are gaining a lot of ground in Europe. You pay a membership fee and then can borrow a punch bowl or a card table or a chainsaw or - in this case - some poles to try out.

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