Our commitment to senior health and well-being remains deeply ingrained within the MePACS service, with guaranteed support from renowned Victorian public health network, Peninsula Health.
As a result, we’ve been lucky enough to interview Associate Professor Michele Callisaya, who is a physiotherapist and researcher specialising in exercise therapy for seniors.
From falls prevention and rehabilitation to pairing exercise with brain training, Michele’s expertise has enabled many seniors to enjoy an active lifestyle and continue to live independently.
We sat down for a chat about her career and how she gives seniors the motivation to keep moving!
Michele formerly worked at the Royal Hobart Hospital and is now based at Monash University and Peninsula Health, which are partners in the National Centre for Healthy Ageing.
“My main role at both hospitals has been to support physiotherapy education and research in the areas of aged care and rehabilitation. I mentor some of the junior physiotherapists, but I also help to improve the service at Peninsula Health through evaluating different models of care, new treatments and techniques. Quite simply, my job is to help people to move and walk again; to assist them with safe exercises and be able to go home.”
Whether in research or clinical practice, her care has always been patient-centred.
“Being a researcher and physiotherapist is quite complementary because you see where the gaps in knowledge are as a physio and then you can delve into further research. When you find something new, then you can apply that to your treatment.
I love working closely with a patient to improve their condition. It is always so rewarding when you see someone who hasn’t been able to walk for a period of time take their first steps again. They have worked so hard to get to that point and I am always so excited to share their achievement.”
Studies have shown that technology has multiple benefits for seniors, from improving personal safety to staying connected with family.
Recently, Michele’s research team evaluated ways that technology can help seniors with their fitness and medical needs.
“We’ve just finished a trial that looks at exercise training on an iPad, with a mixture of balance and cognitive training to help improve older people’s mobility and thinking skills.
We’ve also monitored telehealth consultations at Peninsula Health and how we can address the issues that older people might have. This might vary from hearing loss which can make conversation and understanding more difficult to lack of equipment such as a laptop.
A way we could improve telehealth with technology might be sourcing and designing large simple to use tablets with good speakers that can help seniors be more connected and able to attend appointments virtually. This helps to close the digital divide that some seniors experience, especially if they don’t have access to smart devices or have difficulty using them.”
Exercises for your mind and body
Before you start exercising or if you have any questions about what you can safely do, you should always seek professional advice from your doctor, physiotherapist, or other health professional with expertise in exercise prescription.
Michele was recently involved with Safe Exercises At Home, (https://www.safeexerciseathome.org.au/), a new website dedicated to informing and guiding seniors through the most appropriate exercises for their fitness level.
“I’m so lucky that as part of my research role, I get to meet a lot of incredibly talented physiotherapists from around Australia. We were discussing how COVID-19 was restricting older people in terms of their physical activity, and how this might lead to reduced mobility and falls.
So in designing the website, we wanted to have three different levels of exercises for people who were less mobile, then for those who could perform moderate exercises and then another more advanced for people who were already quite active and may be able to combine different types of exercise.
We’ve got some great exercises to help your heart and brain, then some balance exercises for maintaining mobility and reducing falls. Strengthening exercises improve your bone health and general movements like getting up out of a chair and climbing stairs.