Post-polio wellness retreats provide an opportunity
Moving several steps beyond re-rehabilitation, retreats offer ongoing wellness approaches that promise to improve overall health and quality of life. Important resources include a comfortable location that provides accessible accommodations (accessible natural beauty is a real plus), a committed sponsoring and organizing organization(s), and knowledgeable professionals willing to volunteer time and expertise.
The tradition of spending time away from home and a daily routine to learn new behaviors is not a new idea. It is common in many countries.
Post-polio wellness retreats have been held in Canada, Australia and the United States. Polio survivors have met at Bay Cliff Health Camp, Big Bay, Michigan, since 2006. Bay Cliff's most recent post-polio wellness retreat was September 2013. In 2012 and 2014, Bay Cliff provided weekend reunions for past campers with Dr. Fred Maynard as the featured presenter.
Polio Australia Incorporated coordinated its first Polio Health and Wellness Retreat in April of 2010 after participating in PHI’s Post-Polio Wellness Retreat held at Camp Dream on the campus of Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation in April of 2009 (see below). Since then, Polio Australia has continued to run Polio Health and Wellness Retreats for up to 70 polio survivors and their family members on an annual basis in various states in Australia.
To learn more about the Australian experience, watch a summary video of their 2010 Retreat, and review reports and photos of all other Retreats online.
To found out more about the impact of Polio Australia’s Retreats on the health literacy of participants, view the presentation given at PHI’s 2014 Conference Retreats and Health Literacy.
Below are videos from PHI’s 2009 Post-Polio Wellness Retreat held at Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute on Rehabilitation in Warm Springs, Georgia, USA.
The first Colorado Post-Polio Wellness Retreat was held Aug. 17-21, 2014 at Rocky Mountain Village (Easter Seals Camp) in Empire, Colorado about 40 miles west of Denver.
In attendance were 53 people (Three were faculty and not polio survivors; eight spouses/caregivers; 42 polio survivors). There were two on-site faculty/organizers/polio survivors and a number of faculty members who drove up for parts of days or just for their sessions.
The attendees came from 18 states in addition to Colorado; the age range was from 36 - 85 years old with slight preponderance of women but overall a good mix of genders. Interestingly, six participants had contracted polio in countries outside the US (one in Mexico, one in Iran, one in Pakistan, one in Greece during WWII, two in India).
Facilities are crucial--especially being wheelchair accessible and having ways to access a pool and other recreational activities. In a beautiful setting in the Rocky Mountains, this facility had a heated swimming pool, a hot tub, adaptive horseback riding and a zip line that accommodated people in wheelchairs, plus several wheelchair-accessible trails into the forest.
There was a distance of 1.5 blocks between the housing units and the dining room, so it was crucial to have golf carts and/or scooters/power wheelchairs for loan for participants. We could have used at least one more golf cart and five more scooters/power wheelchairs. Ours were loaned by NuMotion.
It was advertised as a retreat at a camp setting, but several people were initially upset to learn that they would be housed in a dormitory room with up to five people, sleeping on the bottom bunk and sharing bathroom and shower facilities. The organizers think in retrospect that the situation promoted more conversation than if each person had had a private room and resulted in more assisting of each other.
People were housed in three different housing units and we had at least one faculty or person who had been part of the organizing committee staying in each housing unit to solve problems.
People planning a post-polio wellness retreat also should be sure they have:
Special thanks to Marny Eulberg, Margaret Hinman and Sue Brandon