EDWARDSVILLE — A sign greeting visitors at the Edwardsville Senior Center reads, “Don’t just test the waters; make waves.”
Geri-Fit®, an evidence based exercise program recently implemented at the center, gives seniors a chance to do just that as they build muscle, avoid osteoporosis, improve reaction time, refine motor skills and retain balance.
The program is part of “Prime Time Health,” an Area Agency on Aging for Luzerne and Wyoming Counties health and wellness program at centers across the area.
“The program uses the same exercises younger people might use at the gym,” said instructor Doreen Rakowski. “But, we use lighter weights and more repetition.”
A certified group exercise instructor, Rakowski said the program can be modified to meet the needs of seniors who have limited range of motion due to disease or injury.
“Safety comes first,” she said. “So we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Mary Buczynski, 90, is a regular at the class and, although she has a shoulder problem, is able to not only take part, but to get a great benefit from the program.
Daughter Francie Buczynski, said, “I can tell when she comes to class that she has more strength, especially in her arms. You can tell when she’s using her walker.”
Mary Buczynski credits her stamina to something her father told her decades ago.
“You need to keep busy; keep moving,” she said. “You can’t be lazy.
Water breaks are also provided at regular intervals, ensuring participants stay hydrated.
To Helen Gibbs, 60, the program provides an opportunity to build both muscles and friendships.
“I love to come and be around other people,” she said. “I walk a lot, but this also builds strength in my upper body.”
Center Director Rachel Kiwak said the program fills a need at the center.
“For a while, we didn’t have a consistent exercise program in place,” she said. “This program fills that gap and those attending seem to be committed to it.”
Kiwak said the program dovetails with the “if you don’t use it, you lose it model.”
“Intellectually, physically, socially — we keep older people engaged,” she said. “And they flourish.”
To Betty Devans, 95, the opportunity to move and to help means everything.
“I was up walking my dogs at 6:30 this morning,” she said.
Devans said, in addition to participating in center activities, she also volunteers at the Commission on Economic Opportunity, packing boxes and serving lunch for children at area playgrounds throughout the summer.
“Being active and serving others is so important,” she said. “It keeps me young and healthy.”
Rakowski, who has taught similar classes for over 30 years, said the Geri-Fit® provides seniors an opportunity to improve their health, while taking advantage of the center’s various activities.
“We’re beginning the class with a little bit of boot camp,” she said, as participants readied themselves to move. “Start the music!”