He dove in head-first, and he came up from under the water helping others.
Plainview resident and physical therapist at Paragon health network Ken Shah was recognized at a luncheon on Sept. 16 for his work in creating a summer aquatic rehabilitation program from the ground up for low-income senior citizens in Melville that improved the quality of life for those living in the residency. For Shah, the program was much more than creating exercise routines. Rather, it was a way for him to give back to the community.
“By using aquatic therapy, I was able to bring about change,” Shah said about the summer program.
Shah is no stranger to starting a program such at this. He works as Senior Coordinator for the Cardiopulmonary program for Paragon Health Network and is based at Excel at Woodbury for Rehabilitation and Nursing. He developed a specialty in aquatic therapy around 2015 when he was offered by his company to take continuing education classes.
After the classes, he began to develop water-based exercise programs while working in the outpatient department.
This year, he was asked by Paragon’s community liasion what he could do to keep senior citizens active. Shah decided start a program over the summer for the senior citizens in Melville. Adapting his already-established exercise rountines, he began teaching classes on Thursdays throughout the summer.
On hot summer days, Shah and the participants were able to cool off as he led residents through different exercises in each session: Stretching, breathing, Pilates or strength depending on the day.
“By using aquatic therapy, it makes them become a lot stronger,” and improves daily living, Shah said.
Over the summer, he created a bond with those he taught and had regulars coming back each Thursday. His goal was to teach these residents the exercises they needed to get back on their feet and keep up with the program on their own. The weekly session became so popular that people waited in line outside the pool facility in hopes of being one of the 25 people that secured a spot for each lesson.
And the work paid off. Shah said seniors told him of the improvements in the quality of life that the routines brought about. Before the program, certain seniors would be scared to make a trip to a place like ShopRite out of fear of not having the strength to go up and down the aisles. As each session passed though, that became the case less and less.
“It felt really good because I was able to bring help to a lot of seniors living there,” Shah said.
As the summer concluded, he received a call one Thursday that he was being honored by the community with a luncheon. He said the ceremony left an impact on him, and he cried tears of gratitude in his car after he left the luncheon that day.
“It was a great honor of meeting those seniors there,” he said. “For me to give back to the seniors and the community, it’s heart-touching.”
For Shah, the work was gratifying and it showed him how he could pass on the lessons learned through this experience to his children. He also felt like he was returning the favor as a younger person to the seniors who served in the military before his time.
“It motivates me to do good for the community,” he said about his experience.
Shah has already planned out working with the community next summer to keep up the program and help more senior citizens recover from injuries and build body strength so that they can get back to living life as normal as possible.