HSS Shares Successful Strategies to Support the Health of Older Adults with Online Programs

Hospital for Special Surgery

Newswise — After the pandemic led to “stay-at-home” orders in March, the Public & Patient Education Department at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) launched a vital initiative to boost virtual programming to support the community. Between April and August 2020, HSS live and on-demand programs reached 519,605 participants, an increase of 3,500% compared to the same period last year.

An important target audience was older adults. “Inactivity and social isolation are serious public health concerns that are more common as people age,” says Claudia Zurlini, senior coordinator, Public & Patient Education at HSS. “Even before the pandemic, studies indicated that more than 25 percent of adults age 65 and older were inactive and socially isolated, and this has only gotten worse since March. The pandemic has eliminated many opportunities for physical activity and socialization, and this can exacerbate musculoskeletal and chronic health conditions. It can also cause emotional distress.”

To address these health concerns, the HSS Education Institute utilized various online approaches to deliver high quality musculoskeletal health education, exercise and support programs. HSS transitioned close to 80% of its pre-pandemic in-person programming to virtual exercise and education offerings and added new classes and content. HSS staff offered technical support to participants and provided instructor training.

Ms. Zurlini discussed best practices for a successful transition to online programming during a presentation, “Shift to virtual self-management programs during COVID-19: Ensuring access and efficacy for older adults,” at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, which took place virtually on October 26.

“Previous in-person exercise programs and workshops were transitioned to video conference using Zoom, and meditation and support groups for older adults were offered via phone conference to allow ease of use and accessibility for those who did not have internet access or were not comfortable using video conferencing,” she explains. “Additionally, educational lectures with musculoskeletal health experts were live-streamed as webinars and recorded so they could be accessed later for viewing on demand. We also produced videos on topics such as meditation, stress reduction and home exercise injury prevention tips.”

HSS also sent weekly emails containing health information in a comprehensible and engaging format directing readers to additional resources and topic-related programs that could be accessed live or on demand.

Ms. Zurlini and colleagues collected data to assess program effectiveness with surveys, focus groups and participant feedback. “Our follow-up indicates that our targeted approach led to a significant expansion of program reach and yielded positive outcomes in improving mobility and quality of life, and in reducing feelings of isolation.”

Most participants (72%) surveyed were age 60 and older and reported increased reliance on virtual exercise programs to maintain physical activity and mobility, and to help relieve stress and isolation. Eighty-five percent of survey participants reported that they gained knowledge; 83% said they improved their self-management skills; 90% reported program satisfaction; and 83% said they recommended the service to others.

Comments from participants indicate that the sessions had positive health benefits:

“The classes have given structure to my otherwise limited life under quarantine and provided a space for self-nurturing and self-care.”

“I found the class to be very relaxing and relieved stress. I was able to quiet my mind by focusing on the movements.”

“Has helped me to get up and do gentle movements so I am sitting less and is easy on my joints and limited range of motion, and helped compensate that I can’t swim laps for an hour twice a week.”

HSS offers an extensive selection of videos supporting musculoskeletal health on its website, as well as a YouTube playlist:


About HSS

HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 11th consecutive year), No. 4 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2020-2021), and named a leader in pediatric orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2020-2021). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest complication and readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 130 countries. Through HSS Global Ventures, the institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally. www.hss.edu.




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