If you have already broken your fitness resolutions for 2013, here's something to motivate you: as you read this article, senior residents in their 80's and 90's living in an assisted living facility in Brookline are taking to the NuStep bike and improving their strength and flexibility in classes like yoga and Pilates.
On Saturday, January 26, residents of the Goddard House, a non-profit assisted living facility at 165 Chestnut Avenue, celebrated their impressive fitness achievements: in the past year, 41% of residents participated in supervised exercise in the Goddard House gym and 46% of residents participated in group exercise classes like yoga and Tai Chi, with an average number of 13 residents a class.
Immacula Cantave, a retired physician from Chicago, is one of these regular exercisers. The slender, gray-haired woman sat in the fitness center holding onto her walker, waiting her turn to use a machine.
"Whenever the gym is open, I'm there," said Ms. Cantave, "I've been working out here since it opened. I feel better, sleep better, and am happier."
Jessica Gittes, a Goddard House fitness instructor with a doctorate in physical therapy who specializes in geriatric fitness confirmed the benefits of exercise for people who are well into their retirement years.
"Working out regularly helps lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, helps you physically, mentally, emotionally," said Ms. Gittes. "At their age they need to stay strong to maintain their independence." The fitness center has been open for a little over a year, and Gittes said that at first many residents were apprehensive when facing the new machines. But after working with them for a couple of sessions she witnessed an excitement that later spilled over into the conversations in the resident dining hall.
"They all have fun—you can see it," says the dark-haired, petite instructor who has been working at Goddard House since July 2011. Gittes is a favorite among the residents, several of who cited her encouragement and can-do personality as reasons they kept working out.
Walking into the Goddard House library for the "Fitness is Ageless" party, there is a center island covered with healthy snacks like vegetable crudités and fresh fruit. There is a projector set up where pictures of the residents working out and quotes from them about why they love exercise flash on a screen. Benny Goodman plays on the portable CD player nearby. The room fills with people eager to see themselves and their friends in the images. Later, Ms. Gittes and Program Director Melody Bushmich would present awards to residents who showed exceptional fitness achievement.
"I feel the exercise programs have made me much stronger!" said Nancy K. in one of the endorsements appearing on the screen.
"Fitness has given me such great confidence!" says another enthusiast.
Director of Community Outreach at Goddard House, Ginny Mazur, says they plan to make the "Fitness is Ageless" celebration an annual event. "We're offering class demos and encouraging new people to try the fitness center," said Mazur. Their goal, she said, is to open up a second fitness center in Olmsted Place, whose residents have memory impairments like Alzheimer's.
"It doesn't matter what age you start exercising," said Jessica Gittes, "Just sitting around is not good for you."
by Jennifer Campaniolo