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Physical therapy program addresses need for more health care professionals in Phoenix

Jan 10, 2022
5 min Read
Cindy Workman
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Physical therapy program addresses need for more health care professionals to treat growing number of retirees in Phoenix

As the winter months begin, Phoenix, one of the fastest growing cities, will become a destination for retirees who seek refuge from colder regions of the country. In fact, nearly 18% of Arizona’s 7.2 million population consists of people 65 and older, according to the 2019 U.S. Census. With the growth of the aging population, in addition to an Association of American Medical Colleges study that estimates a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians across the country by 2034, additional health care providers are in-demand.

The School of Pharmacy and Health Professions at the Creighton University Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix is launching a three-year Doctor of Physical Therapy Program to meet such demand. The program is now accepting enrollment for its first inaugural class, beginning in the fall.

“In partnership with St. Vincent de Paul’s Virginia G. Piper Medical Clinic, Creighton students will receive real-life clinical experience while serving the needs of the community, which include ensuring those transitioning from the workforce into retirement remain successful and healthy while leading meaningful lives,” said Jamie Nesbit, PT, DPT, assistant professor of physical therapy.

Nesbit says wintertime is not the time to take a break from staying physically and mentally healthy. She provides five important areas that Arizona’s retirement age residents should take heed of to maintain their overall health during the winter months.

Sufficient sleep – Seven to eight hours of sleep each night is recommended for positive health. Practicing good sleep hygiene, which includes avoiding screen time, in addition to food and alcohol consumption prior to bedtime, could increase sleep quality. Sleep apnea can also interfere with sleep quality and increase the risk of stroke and dementia.

Increased movement – Physical activity keeps the mind and body active, improving overall health and wellness. The daily recommendation is to move at a moderate or vigorous pace for 20 to 30 minutes. Movement can be as simple as walking with a friend. Incorporating a social component is a great way to keep the mind, body and spirit healthy.

“With age comes a loss of primary balance systems. If an individual is starting to recognize they aren’t as comfortable with an activity or have increased swaying and dizziness, they should consult a physical therapist,” added Nesbit.

Proper hydration and nutrition – As individuals age, they lose their sense of thirst. Hydration is key to staying healthy. Drinking four to six ounces of water every hour promotes good hydration and time for your kidneys to properly filter out toxins. Consuming four to six servings of fruits and vegetables each day provides usable energy for your body.

Mental health and wellness – Mental health is a core component of overall health and wellness. With COVID-19, many individuals remained indoors, but being stagnant or less active hinders quality of life. Paying close attention to overall health can help individuals maintain independence and gain confidence with physical movement.

Annual physical therapy appointments – An annual visit with a physical therapist is a great preventative health measure that offers guidance, similar to that of an annual checkup with a primary care physician.

“Physical therapists ensure physical health, check muscle functions in joints and provide tips to prevent slips and falls. We are not only movement specialists, but we also advocate to help individuals continue doing what they enjoy most,” said Nesbit.