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Staying active in your senior years


Marg Nelson and Betty McLeod go to exercise class for different reasons but they both leave feeling the same positive effects of ‘doing their bodies good”.

They are among 22 local seniors and women with disabilities like multiple sclerosis who are taking steps to ward off the sedentary lifestyle and improve their overall health and fitness at a low impact exercise class, headed up by instructor Darlene Nugent.

The “Seniorcise” program, now underway once a week here at the KC Hall, uses modified stretching, Tai-Chi, and weight-lifting techniques.

“I felt more loosened up in my muscles and joints,” noted Nelson, who suffers from painful bouts of arthritis.

“I have my good and bad days but the day I go [exercise] is usually a good one,” she chuckled.

“I felt good afterwards [and] I go because I need some exercise,” added McLeod.

“And I’d like to learn more about [Tai-Chi],” noted McLeod. “I wouldn’t have even though about doing something like that [for exercise],” she enthused.

“You know the cliché ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” Nugent said yesterday. “Seniors are telling me all the time how much better they feel and how much happier they are [after exercising].

“I love working with them and they are far from ‘over the hill,’” she stressed.

And with initiatives such as the Rainy River District Focus Community Program’s “Substance Abuse Prevention Team” underway, senior citizens will have even more opportunities to spend their “golden years” in healthy and independent lifestyles.

Seniors are one of five target groups of the SAP, whose objective it is to increase the number of senior education programs aimed at substance abuse (prescription drugs), promoting physical activity, and greater knowledge about medication safety.

One of SAP’s senior initiatives includes recruiting trained professionals who can offer senior fitness programs. The “Seniorcise” program falls under that mandate.

SAP co-ordinator Elaine Caron noted Nugent and one other instructor have been designated to attend out-of-town training sometime in the next couple of months to upgrade their qualifications.

“I’m hoping to become better at what I do and understand the elderly,” said Nugent. “I can always learn something more.”

Also in the planning stages, Caron said, is SAP’s “Project Clean Sweep,” which would give seniors the chance to have their pharmacist, home care worker, or volunteers check the validity of prescription medicines they keep at home.

“One of SAP’s long-term goals is to provide physical fitness classes throughout the district depending on the needs of seniors, [and] more healthy seniors through exercise will hopefully reduce medication use,” she noted.

Barb Duguay, a gerontologist with Rainycrest Home for the Aged here, said the “seniorcise” program offers people the chance to get out and remain active.

She noted that as society moves into the next millennium, programs must meet the needs of a growing—and active—senior population.

“I think we are moving towards a more “age friendly” society,” Duguay reasoned Monday.

“At one time, seniors were seen as frail, ill, and unable to care for themselves [but] today, seniors are becoming more vocal, visual, and demonstrating that the past stereotypes and myths about old age are decaying,” she added.

Meanwhile, for those seniors unable to get out of the house on their own due to physical or mental illness associated with the aging process, there is the “day hospital program” at La Verendrye here.

The program, aimed at reducing feelings of isolation while providing a friendly atmosphere and personal health monitoring, operates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Activities include chat sessions, crafts, entertainment, chair exercises, and church services.

“[Day hospital] is a social opportunity for seniors [and] provides them with a family, and we can plug them in to whatever they need [therapeutically] while they are here,” said Eva Thornton, ambulatory support services manager at La Verendrye hospital here.

“If they are isolated at home, and only have the four walls to look at, they can get depressed, not eat, and become sicker,” she explained, noting transportation to and from the hospital for seniors can be arranged.

“We have found that giving seniors something to look forward to . . . to come out and see familiar faces and get connected keeps them living [independently] in their homes longer.

“That’s the goal,” Thornton said.

Seniors interested in the day hospital program can call 274-3261 ext. 4148.

Meanwhile, Thornton and Nugent both agreed on another component of healthy living that seniors (not to mention the rest of us) require on a daily basis.

“Laughter is a big component of their program,” noted Thornton. “They have a lot of fun.”

“There’s one rule I have in my [exercise] class—if you don’t laugh, you gotta leave,” chuckled Nugent.

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