OU’s HOP-UP-PT leaves positive impact on local senior citizens

While physical therapy is one of the most common and important services for senior citizens to help improve functional mobility, not many of them have easy access to this.

To address this problem, Oakland University’s Home-Based Older Persons Upstreaming Prevention Physical Therapy (HOP-UP-PT) program has been providing early preventative interventions to local senior citizens at a broad range of risks for more than 5 years now.

Coordinated by Chris Wilson and Sara Arena, the co-principle investigators and co-founders of the HOP-UP-PT program, and Lori Boright, program coordinator, the program was recently awarded a $321,075 Healthy Aging grant by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund. This grant will be spent in growing technology and reimbursement innovation.

“Our previous grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund in 2018 enabled us to do a large-scale demonstration project of the clinical effectiveness of the program,” Wilson said. “We found that older adults who participated in HOP-UP-PT were eight times less likely to fall after the program, and their health and home safety improved as well.”

The system of this program is quite simple. After a referral from a community senior center, a physical therapist will visit the home of the senior citizens and do a comprehensive health assessment. Then the therapist will return in a week to teach them balance exercises, also providing a wearable activity monitor and a blood pressure cuff for home use.

To date, they have helped over 175 senior citizens. According to Wilson, the program played a huge role in enabling these seniors to stay active and healthy in the middle of the pandemic.

“While HOP-UP-PT has grown substantially since the early discussions, a vision to empower older adults to remain safe and active in their home remains at the core of the program,” Arena said.

As the main contributors of the program, Wilson, Arena and Boright all started with a common goal: as Wilson put it, make this model “the standard of care for older adults across the United States.” The three of them coordinate the program, train the local physical therapists and recruit senior citizens interested in the program.

“It was very rewarding to visit our participants in their homes, develop relationships with them (some of which outlasted the duration of the study and continue to this day) and play an important role in maintaining a safe and independent lifestyle though the innovative approaches of HOP-UP-PT,” Boright said.

Additionally, they are currently mentoring 26 OU students on various aspects of research related to the HOP-UP-PT program. By engaging students with the research and clinical end of the program, they are spreading awareness of the importance of this program.

Now that the clinical gains are being clearly established, we need to be able to train other physical therapists across the nation how to do this program, help insurance companies to see the value in upstream physical therapist services and to help community centers identify and refer senior citizens in their communities to this program,” Wilson said.

With the expansion of the HOP-UP-PT program, more senior citizens are living their daily lives with improved overall health and a renewed physical fitness that makes simple tasks easier to perform.

For more information about the program, visit its website or email [email protected].