Erika Hunzinger always knew she wanted to help others to achieve better health. When she graduated last spring with a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy, she couldn’t wait to apply some of the things that she had learned to help the community.
“As an Occupational Therapist and as a Yoga Instructor, I believe strongly in empowering people to be in charge of their own health care, especially when it comes to preventative health practices and self-awareness.”
It was this belief that attracted 29 year old Erika to PRIME, a health centre for seniors, at Misericordia.
PRIME officially opened at Misericordia Health Centre in May, 2015, with a mandate to allow older adults to remain living independently in their homes for as long as possible, while still promoting their engagement and participation in the community.
“I learned about the program in OT school, and was immediately a fan because I admire the program’s holistic approach to health care.”
Erika wanted to take the themes behind PRIME – a holistic approach, community engagement – and create an event that reflected these values while helping members of the community.
The result? A “Health and Wellness Symposium” held at the Brodie Centre, geared towards an aging population as well as caregivers.
The one-day symposium included informative presentations by partners like pharmacists and naturopathic doctors and was also highly interactive. Attendees were able to participate in a variety of therapeutic exercises; a seated-yoga class allowed seniors to experience the benefits of yoga in a way that is friendly for mobility; art therapy demonstrations showed how the pleasure of creating can also be good for arthritis; a Zumba class was not too strenuous but tons of fun.
“I specifically tried to make it universally accessible by adapting activities to meet a variety of physical capabilities,” explains Erika.
Funds raised from the event were directed towards PRIME.
“It was such a great experience to meet other professionals passionate about older adult health and wellness. Students, clinicians and specialists volunteered their time. It demonstrated the value of personal connection. We all have so much we can learn from one another.”
Patti Smith, Executive Director at Misericordia Foundation, was blown away by the passion Erika demonstrated for helping older adults.
“It is a privilege to be part of an organization deeply committed to providing support to an area as compelling as healthy aging. Working with Erika and a group of high performing, enthusiastic and passionate young professionals, has not only been inspiring and fun but promises a bright and hopeful future for our senior population”.