So that older adults can continue to live independently in their homes, remaining active is a must.
"We've had seniors come off of medicine because of exercise class," said Jessica Tipton, health and wellness coordinator at the West Chester Senior Center.
Programs at West Chester include low impact aerobics on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m., Silver Sneakers (a walking-based class that you don't need Silver Sneakers membership in to participate), arthritis exercise on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m., "Healthy Steps in Motion" (which promotes flexibility at 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, yoga at 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, stretching class at 9:45 a.m. Wednesdays, an Arthritis Foundation tai chi program at 11:15 a.m. Thursdays and qigong (pronounced chi-gong) at 9:15 a.m. Fridays.
Tai chi and qigong are Eastern forms of exercise that promote range of motion, Tipton said. Qigong has a meditation component. "I like to approach this as a holistic approach," she said.
These days wellness is about taking care of both body and mind, said Amy Stover, program director at Generations of Indian Valley in Souderton. It's reflected in the number of people that are walking into Generations with an interest in what she referred to as "alternative modalities," like acupuncture, reflexology, Reiki, meditation, massage and guided self-healing affirmation groups. "They're becoming more and more open, with the new generation that's coming in. The new generation's more in tune to preventative care," she said.
In an email Stover said: "Our seniors are motivated and active, and they enjoy weekly feel-good classes for every fitness level, such as 'Gentle Yoga' (standing/seated poses and mat work for those that are able), tai chi, 'Dancefit' (zumba-inspired workout), 'Flexercise' (aerobics and strength work), step aerobics and 'Sit, Stretch, Flex' (seated workout with aerobics, strength, flexibility and balance). In addition we also offer special event wellness series programs for fall prevention, balance training and disease prevention. We strive to give our participants opportunities to maintain healthy lifestyles by providing on-site access to wellness and spa offerings ... nutrition education, low-cost, healthy meal offerings; preventative health screenings; and informational group discussions."
The East Campus of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Yeadon is home to the Friendship Circle Senior Center. Their list of fitness offerings, according to director Christine Helmandoller, is "attractive to seniors" and includes zumba at 9:30 a.m. Mondays, exercise classes at 10:30 Mondays, "Healthy Steps" at 10 a.m. Wednesdays, "Chair Zumba" at 1 p.m. Thursdays and "Strength & Cardio" at 10 a.m. Fridays.
Friendship Circle takes advantage of being in a building on the grounds of a hospital by bringing in the doctors for programs like "Dine with the Docs." "The collaboration is endless," Helmandollar said, also mentioning the center's monthly stroke support group.
"The hottest program is zumba. The music, it makes exercise fun. The large part (of that) has to do with the instructor," said Arthur Weisfeld, executive director of Senior Community Services, which oversees Friendship Circle, the Chester Senior Center, Good Neighbor Senior Center in Darby, Schoolhouse Senior Center in Ridley Township and the Centers Without Walls series of programs held in various municipal buildings in western Delaware County.
"What's also popular is light exercise, line dancing, square dancing ... Wii bowling isn't exercise, but it's movement. Yoga is also something that's a regular practice in health and wellness," he said, mentioning cardio exercise, tap dancing, chair yoga, mall walking and even an aerobics class that features gospel music.
And don't underestimate the health benefits of the social interaction that comes with senior fitness and wellness events. "A recent study I was reading said that social isolation is more detrimental and harmful than obesity or smoking," Weisfeld said.