Active Living Tips for Older Adults
Number 4, March 2003
Taking part in an exercise program - your rights and responsibilities
You have the right to expect safe and beneficial programs
that are tailored to your needs, abilities and goals. This
is true whether you join a commercial fitness club, a program
at your local “Y,” or one at a seniors recreation
centre. You have the right to good programs whether you pay
directly through fees, or indirectly through your taxes. You
also have the right to look around and ask questions before
you join, such as:
Getting there: Is there parking or access
to public transport? Is it easy to walk there? Are the entrances
well lit, even and cleared of snow?
Options: Are the scheduled times and days
convenient for you? Can you try out classes or groups before
joining? Switch classes later?
Costs: Are there any fees? Will you need
any special clothing, footwear or exercise equipment? Do you
need a fitness appraisal or a doctor’s permission? If
so, what will these cost you?
Staff: Are they welcoming and helpful? Are
the instructors trained to work with older adults? Have they
talked to you about your expectations?
Facilities: Are washrooms nearby? Are there
sitting areas, change rooms?
Other participants: How many people will
be in the class or group? Do you like the mix of ages and
the balance of men and women?
The answers to such questions can help you decide whether
particular facilities or programs seem right for you and help
you choose between programs.
The right to give feedback
Even if you check out a program beforehand, once you join,
you may still have problems from time to time. For instance,
you may find the room too hot or too cold, have trouble hearing
or seeing the instructor, or find some of the dance steps
frustrating. Don’t give up and leave. Give the program
a chance to address your concerns. You may be pointing out
something that is bothering many other people too. All active
living programs should find ways to make it easy for members
to give feedback, such as, suggestion boxes, comment cards,
surveys or focus (discussion) groups.
The program’s obligation
In addition to client feedback, programs must collect other
evaluation information to ensure they are delivering the best
service possible. Program managers and deliverers are accountable
to funders, boards of directors, and to you, their clients.
Common types of information programs may collect are:
- Background information at registration to learn more
about the types of people who prefer certain programs, how
they heard about the program, and so on.
- Attendance or sign-in sheets to look at patterns and
adjust course offerings and scheduling as needed.
- Phone interviews to offer support and encouragement to
absent members or address reasons for drop-out.
- Assessments at the beginning and end of the program to
examine possible benefits of participation such as improved
sleep quality or balance.
Why should you give information?
Some information, such as a fitness appraisals or medical
forms, may be required before starting a class, but most is
voluntary. If asked to give information for evaluation purposes,
you should seriously consider the request. Many people find
it interesting to discuss their impressions or learn more
about their abilities (such as balance or strength). Your
involvement in the evaluation process is vital to help the
program secure funding and meet client expectations, yours
as well as those of future participants. Sometimes, this information
is shared in summary form to help exercise leaders across
the country. You may even be asked to sit on a committee to
help plan an evaluation, choose appropriate tools and develop
recommendations based on the findings.
What should you know before giving information?
Telemarketing scams have made us all more careful about
giving out personal information, such as addresses or phone
numbers. If you are unclear about anything, you have the right
to ask questions. You should not feel pressured to agree on
the spot. Before you give information, you should know the
- Who is making the request?
- What am I being asked to do?
- How long will it take?
- How will the information be used?
- How will it be kept confidential and secure?
- Will I have the opportunity to ask questions?
- Can I change my mind at any point?
- Do I fully understand any document, such as a consent
form, that I am signing?
- Have I been given any written information, such as a
copy of the form?
- Have I been given information about who to contact if
I have questions or concerns?
Protecting your information
Evaluators and researchers use a number of strategies to
protect individual information, for example:
- Using confidential identifiers or codes instead of individual
names, to protect your privacy;
- Keeping all raw data, such as questionnaires, under lock
- Destroying information after the evaluation is completed;
- Not releasing names, addresses or phone numbers to any
- Not using information for any purpose except those stated
on the consent form.
These assurances should be clearly explained on the consent
form that you are asked to sign. Thus, you have the right
to ask questions before you join a program, the right to give
feedback (either good or bad) about the program, and the right
to have any information you provide be protected. At the same
time, you share the responsibility for ensuring the program
is meeting participant needs and expectations by getting involved
in the evaluation process.
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