GUELPH – Sticking to an exercise regime can be difficult for everyone, especially in the winter months. For seniors, however, regular exercise is essential to prevent falling and injury.
According to the Fall Prevention Month national campaign website, approximately 30 per cent of older adults fall at least once a year, and those falls often result in disability, loss of independence or death.
In 2018 the Safe Communities Falls Prevention Advisory Committee and the Victoria Order of Nurses (VON) launched a 50-class challenge for SMART Exercise participants in Wellington County, and handing out prizes and certificates to any Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together (SMART) participant that attends 50 classes from November 2018 to November 2019.
In January of 2019 three residents of Guelph Lake Commons obtained their SMART certificate so that their fellow seniors would have more exercise classes on offer.
After completing over 150 classes, Harm Krol, Molly VanRoon and David Wilson did not want themselves or any other resident to have to miss an exercise class.
“They only give VON instructions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We get video from another instructor on Saturday. I thought the weekend is too long,” said VanRoon. “So we thought ‘well we can do it on Saturday’ so I went with Harm and David and we followed the course and we take turns.”
“We were doing it already, anyway. So when the VON was looking for volunteers, we three volunteered right away,” said Krol.
The classes they teach combine a mixture of different exercises, including cardio, stretching and balancing.
“The first 15 minutes we exercise standing and the last 15 minutes we sit down and do exercise. It’s also on a regular basis,” said Krol.
A retired Air Canada customer service agent, before moving to Guelph Lake Commons Krol said he did not do much exercise.
“[I did] practically nothing, just a bit of walking, no exercise. But since I’ve been here and also the other regulars, we say we can’t miss it anymore; we like it and we need it,” he said.
“It wakes us up, it gets us going for the day, it gets us out of our rooms.”
Retired high school teacher David Wilson, 97, says he enjoys encouraging other seniors to stay active.
“I practiced weights for most of my youth; I try to keep it up as much as possible,” he said.
“My favorite part is to encourage old people to engage in exercise,” said Wilson of being an instructor.
Health is the number one concern for VanRoon, a retired nurse.
“The exercise should not hurt, you know, that is my main concern,” she said.
“And you should drink [water] during the course too because, you know it’s fairly intensive and … take your breathing periods.”
Already she said she has seen improvement in her own physical health.
“There’s different exercises, and they included your fingers, your wrists, your ankles, your toes, your calves, everything. And I found that very beneficial for me,” she said.
The classes also provide the opportunity for seniors to socialize with each other.
“Right after we exercise, we have a coffee class break,” said Krol.
Most importantly, all three say it’s important to stay active.
“You have to keep things moving, you have to keep the muscles moving,” Wilson said. “You have to keep the bones and the joints moving.”