Swim class keeps seniors active
ELKTON — There’s nothing like taking a dip when it gets hot out.
But while some might be excited to try out the new outdoor pool at the YMCA of Cecil County, there’s a group of seniors (the “Splashing Seniors,” to be exact) that’s just as happy to keep using the indoor pool.
Students in this class aren’t trying to bench press at the beach. The goal is to just move. Some are dealing with joint replacements, running with the help of a pacemaker or have varying degrees of mental capacity.
Class instructor Rachael Lawrence explained it’s no problem if a student doesn’t get the moves exact.
“Anything they do in the water is OK,” she said. They can adapt moves as needed and go at their own pace. In one class, Lawrence had students try to balance on water. Some were able to, and some weren’t – so they just followed along with the other moves.
Lawrence, 42, got into group exercise on land. She has about 20 years of fitness instructor experience and has been teaching the “Splashing Seniors” for about five years. She also teaches a general “Aqua Fit” class, which is similar but more intense.
As a teacher, Lawrence finds the “Splashing Se- and will joke that her students feel like her “backup dancers.” She said she will notice students buddying up and helping each other.
The class is formatted similar to any other workout class, albeit with some differences. Although there is a warmup period, it looks more like a meet and greet. Students adjust to being in the water and Lawrence chats with the class about what’s new. Then Lawrence starts instructing 30 to 40 minutes of cardio before leading a cool down.
Sometimes, it’s the little victories that are important.
“We’re going to get you back to walking to the mailbox,” Lawrence said.
While the class usually has a pretty steady turnout, Lawrence said class size will go down in the winter when seniors are living in warmer climates or have more difficulty getting around. Although the outdoor pool is now in use, it will not be used for the class since it better suits the class to workout inside.
Millie Jones, Linda Ayres and Dian Johnson, who are all in their 70s, come every week. They agreed the class helps them stay healthy – and it’s fun. class doubles as a social activity, as students will often sit down and talk over coffee after class. The group also organizes a holiday lunch and will make plans for other activities and trips – this July they will even go tubing down the Brandywine River.
The program is co-sponsored by Senior Services and Community Transit and the YMCA, and open to seniors 60 and older, so seniors can get in for just $10 a month. That the program is available at such a low cost is important for seniors, typically a group on a fixed income.
A complete range of motion exercise program, it is designed for flexibility and muscle strengthening – not necessarily for the former star swimmer.
Doris Andersen, who takes her parents to the Y on Mondays and Wednesdays and watches from the sidelines, said she is “thrilled” with the class.
“This has just been a godsend,” Andersen said.
Her parents, Don and Dona Fieldhouse, are 90 and 84, respectively. Andersen said the program has helped with their mobility and balance. Don was nervous about coming, joking the women. Recently, the class has seen a small but growing group of men. Although he usually only works out for about 40 minutes before heading for the hot tub, that’s still an impressive and important 40 minutes for the 90-year-old.
The class gives Dona, who is now in a wheelchair, her freedom back.
“I can do anything in the water, but not on land,” she said.
She is a longtime Y member and took water aerobics for several decades, she said. Although this class takes things a little slower, it shares some of the same concepts. She credits regular exercise with why she remains healthy and moving today.
“It I hadn’t been doing this for years, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said.
However, she’d love to see her adult kids join her in the class.
“They need to exercise,” she said. “You can’t do the kind of things you used to do.”
Participants must register for this program in person with the Senior Services and Community Transit Center. For more information, call 410-620-3101.
Rachael Lawrence laughs as she has fun instructing a senior fitness class at the YMCA of Cecil County.
Rachael Lawrence, now a swim and fitness instructor with the YMCA of Cecil County, has about 20 years of fitness training experience.