In less than two weeks, Tooele resident Becky Adams has big plans — she’s going to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Ireland.
To do it properly, Adams has to lean backward while holding onto an iron railing from the parapet walk and kiss the stone, which is set in the wall below the battlements of the castle.
Once Adams kisses it, legend says she’ll be bestowed with the gift of eloquence.
Just a few months ago, the 58-year-old member of Senior Circle wouldn’t have even thought about such a physical feat. But thanks to her membership in Senior Circle and some physical therapy, she can’t wait for the Senior Circle’s trip to Ireland during the first two weeks of April.
About a year and a half ago, Adams lost her husband shortly after learning he had brain cancer. She had a hard time adjusting to being a widow and really didn’t want to admit that she was a senior. After a few months of dragging her feet, she decided to join Senior Circle, a group for people ages 50 and older at Mountain West Medical Center. She has now been a member for a year.
“I hesitated a little, but I got into it and I’ve had a wonderful time,” she said. “Senior Circle has helped me to get to know people and to get out. Otherwise I would have just stayed home.”
A few months ago, as Senior Circle was planning its trip to Ireland, Robert Pagnani, physical therapist and director of rehab services for MWMC, decided it might be good for the seniors to strengthen themselves physically, especially because the trip will require a lot of walking, stairs and getting on and off busses.
“The [Senior Circle’s] previous big trip was to Washington, D.C. last year,” he said. “One of the notes was that there were a lot of people that didn’t get to enjoy the trip because they weren’t quite ready to do that physical activity. We thought it would be a shame to get ready for this trip and not be able to enjoy it because they weren’t in shape.”
Pagnani said this idea was the premise for his department to provide Senior Circle members with some physical therapy tips. About three months before the Ireland trip, he began teaching members some things that could help them improve their physical abilities.
The group worked on general conditioning, balance, pilates, proper footwear, how to walk on various surfaces (such as wet concrete) and how to keep circulation steady on the 14-hour plane ride.
“We tried to run the whole gamut,” Pagnani said. “But we found a few people who needed extra help, like Becky.”
Adams said she made a list of all the problems she was having and gave it to Pagnani. About six weeks ago, she began doing additional physical therapy to help her improve her problem areas. At first she could only pedal for about a minute and half on the stationary bike before getting too tired. Now she can pedal for 18 minutes.
“Physical therapy has made my heart stronger, built up my endurance, and I can walk up and down the stairs with laundry,” Adams said. “If it wasn’t for physical therapy, I know I couldn’t make the plane trip.”
Becky Trigg, director of marketing at MWMC and former director of Senior Circle, said the Senior Circle program is provided through the hospital’s owner, Community Health Systems, Inc. Currently, there are around 850 members in the Tooele area. Trigg said about a third of the members attend all of the group’s activities, while the rest will attend sometimes or are just interested in knowing what’s going on in the senior community.
Benefits from joining the group include a newsletter, a variety of activities such as wellness dinners and bingo nights, group vacations, and discounts on prescription eyeglasses and companion service emergency response systems.
“The other big benefit is if you’re a member and you are an in-patient here, you get a private room upgrade if it’s available, and your caregiver who visits you gets a free meal in the cafeteria,” said Trigg. “You also get free flu shots each year.”
Trigg added the purpose of the program is for seniors to learn about what medical services are available in the Tooele community, be educated about various medical conditions, and gain companionship from other seniors in the area.
“Oftentimes, senior citizens lose their independence,” Pagnani said. “Senior Circle provides them the opportunity to be independent and successful in activities they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.”
Pagnani said using local physicians is important for seniors because the doctors can work together to provide care for them.
“If they have local doctors, it’s so easy for us to communicate with them,” he said. “We can talk to them one-on-one and they know their patients by name. That facilitates the whole process when it comes to something like physical therapy. The ability for all of us to be a phone call away and talk to each other has been huge and relieved a lot of stress on the patient not to have to go all over the place. It’s a team approach.”
The cost to join Senior Circle is $15 a year for a single person or $27 a year for a couple. The group’s next scheduled vacation is to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota in June. Citizens interested in joining Senior Circle can visit www.seniorcircle.com to apply, stop by the hospital or call (435) 843-3691 for more information.