Gordon in the News: last updated 06/19/2008

New Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness

June 2, 2008                         
Cyndi McMahon
Office of College Communications


WENHAM, MA - An increasing proportion of the adult population over the age of 55 years is becoming concerned with avoiding the normative physical declines associated with aging. Additionally, many aging adults experience increased anxiety due to age-related decrements in balance and mobility--placing them at increased risk for falls and injuries. In response, the new expanded Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness (CBMW) at Gordon College seeks to help ease these worries through its out-patient physical therapy and wellness programs.

Headed by its Clinical Director, Marie Lucey, P.T. and CBMW Center and Research Director, Sean Clark, Ph.D., the original center was opened in 2002. Since that time, over 1000 clients have been treated in a small space within Gordon's Bennett Athletic Center. But the new facility will allow more clients to receive treatment, providing expanded service to those who struggle with balance and mobility problems. Further, the CBMW will offer wellness programming for healthy adults 55 years of age and older. "This new center will be unrivaled in its ability to address the acute and long-term needs of aging adults," says Peter Iltis, Chair of the Department of Kinesiology at Gordon College.

The recently completed facility celebrated its grand opening on June 14. The newly built 6,500 square-foot facility is located at the Brigham Athletic Complex on Gordon's campus and will feature clinical, academic and research expertise for the treatment of neurological, vestibular, and balance and gait disorders.  

The CBMW, which receives clients primarily through physician referral, features highly specialized outpatient physical therapy for older adults at risk for falls. "Gordon's Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness provides a level of care that is unique on the North Shore," says Richard Mugge, MD, FACS. "Patients would usually have to travel to Boston to receive these services." Mugge, a physician at North Shore Ear, Nose, and Throat Associates in Beverly also appreciates the success his patients have had through therapy at the Center. "They have provided professional, knowledgeable, and compassionate therapy to my patients with balance and dizziness problems. They schedule appointments on a timely basis and effect cure or significant improvement for the majority of patients that I have referred."

Therapists at the center employ unique and innovative training strategies to help clients overcome their disabilities. The new balance training room within the center will be equipped with a multi-station full-body harness system designed to allow individuals to perform challenging balance-specific exercises within a safe environment. One unique exercise involves the use of computer software and age-appropriate music to encourage clients to perform varied stepping patterns and whole-body movements. Known more widely as "Dance Dance Revolution," this software has tremendous appeal among young people, and its application to the older adult population has great potential. The facility is also the first on the North Shore to provide individuals with access to ActiveStep--a fall-risk assessment and fall-prevention training system. ActiveStep offers its users a method to re-learn their natural "recovery response." Early research conducted with this device has been encouraging in terms of reducing fall risk in some elderly individuals-- an important consideration in Massachusetts where the incidence of deaths related to falls increased by two-thirds from 2005 to 2006.

As part of the Center's role in educating future health care professionals, undergraduate students in the Kinesiology Department at Gordon College work directly with the therapists and patients through internships at the center. "Gordon's kinesiology students will receive training and have onsite accessibility to balance disorder resources not available at many other liberal arts college programs in the country," shares Iltis. Kinesiology students will also assist therapists by assisting with fitness screenings, learning assessment techniques for specific vestibular disorders, giving presentations on wellness, or assisting with exercise or therapy sessions. "Gordon students will be actively engaged in the process of linking theory into practice," continued Iltis. "This engagement provides a tremendous research facility for Gordon faculty and students to investigate key questions pertaining to our field." The center also hosts graduate internships in physical therapy through a collaborative arrangement with the MGH Institute of Health Professions.

Another distinction of the center is the new wellness training area where both graduates of the out-patient physical therapy and healthy adults aged 55 years and older can proactively pursue healthy aging with greater independence. "The wellness training area creates a quiet, non-intimidating atmosphere for the 55 and over demographic," says Iltis. "There are no mirrors, no free-weights, no weight machines…all the strength training equipment is pneumatic and virtually silent." Iltis adds, "Since many age-related declines in physical function are the result of inactivity and disuse, this part of the facility plays a vital preventative role-enabling aging adults to retain and even improve their physical status through carefully prescribed exercise training."  At the CBMW emphasis is placed upon improving strength, balance, aerobic fitness, and flexibility.

The recent grand opening offered visitors an opportunity to view the new facility and meet the therapists.  Guided tours were provided at regular intervals, and interested individuals received information pertaining to membership details. Physical therapy costs at the CBMW are negotiated through your health care provider and individual wellness memberships begin at $55.00/month.

For further information, please call the CBMW directly at 978.867.4095 or visit www.gordon.edu/balance. To schedule an interview, contact Cyndi McMahon at 978.867.4236 or email . Photographs available on request.

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Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The college offers majors in 37 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colleges.


Center for Balance and Mobility at Gordon College