- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Southern Maryland seniors are more active than ever
By GRETCHEN PHILLIPS
Staff writerLife after 50, 60, 70 and beyond is more active than ever if senior centers in the region are any indication. Seniors have been awakening undiscovered talents, sharpening known ones and keeping their bodies toned at senior centers in all three Southern Maryland counties.
A body in motionPaul Ludwig, 90, participates each week in a strength-training class at the Garvey Senior Activity Center in Leonardtown. The class is designed for senior men and the ages run the gamut, from their mid-50s to 90.
Ludwig said it’s a great program that involves exercises one might not necessarily do at home.
Taking a break from using elastic resistance bands, Ludwig said the workout “hits most all parts of the body.”
As the other men prepared to come off a break and start up with their chair exercises again, Ludwig was a little slower coming back to the group. Nothing a little friendly banter couldn’t fix.
“Old age allowance will only get you so far,” another senior jokingly said to Ludwig, who quickly retook his place in the exercise circle.
The instructor, David Scheible, who teaches similar classes in Calvert County, said the exercises are designed to help men build strength and work muscles they would typically use during the day.
“We want people to have a good workout,” Scheible said. “We want them to do it safely and have fun. If you don’t have fun, you won’t continue.”
David Ryan, 72, of Hollywood said he signed up for the class to help with range of motion.
“I know I’m not capable of things I used to do,” he said.
The class, he said, helps a great deal with range of motion, which he said comes in handy with daily activities. Ryan noticed that as he got older, a simple thing like looking to the rear window of his car while backing out was no longer an option. The class, he said, helped him to have the option of turning around from the driver’s seat if he wanted to look out the rear.
Participating at the center allows Ryan to exercise and maintain a routine.
“At home, I would take the easy way out,” he said.
Strength-training courses are available at senior centers in all three counties and are not all gender-specific.
Each center offers various types of exercise courses, including aerobics and dancing courses such as Zumba. For those with arthritis or looking for a more relaxed workout, each county offers a program through the Arthritis Foundation. These exercises are designed to reduce pain and increase strength and flexibility. The exercise programs are taught by Arthritis Foundation-certified instructors and can be modified to fit individual needs, according to the Arthritis Foundation website.
Earlene Russell, 76, of La Plata took an Arthritis Foundation exercise class at the Richard R. Clark Senior Center in La Plata and said she liked it so much that she inquired about starting her own program at the retirement center where she lives. She now instructs others who live in her building.
Edie Hintz, 69, of Hollywood said the program at the Garvey center is just enough exercise to “get you going.” Hintz said she is pleased with all of the programs and activities, exercise or otherwise, that the senior center in Leonardtown has available to her and other seniors.
Something for everyone
Aside from exercise programs, senior centers in all three counties provide programs and activities that run anywhere from crafts and games to performances.
At the Calvert Pines Senior Center in Prince Frederick recently, Stanley “Cool Breeze” Freeland, 76, and Ernest Sewell, 83, were practicing a choreographed routine to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” as part of a tribute to Motown performance the center will be putting on today.
Sewell, of Prince Frederick, said he was approached by his wife to participate in the program and he agreed. Typically, Sewell participates in the center’s “ask the nurse” program, where nurses from Calvert Memorial Hospital come in to take blood pressures and answer general medical questions. Programs such as this are also available at other centers.
For the Motown show, Sewell said he was having a good time, and whether he masters the late King of Pop’s signature moves or not, “I’ll do my best.”
Freeland, a regular billiards player at the Prince Frederick center, is also a regular participant in the line dancing programs there.
“Most everybody here is just like family,” Sewell said about Calvert Pines.
By taking part in the activities available to them, Sewell said the centers “give seniors something to do. It gets them out of the house to meet people.”
Herbert Campbell, 64, of Waldorf said there are so many things offered at senior centers that many might not know about, such as getting help with Social Security questions and taxes. Instead of going to different departments to get answers, Campbell said, “you can come [to the senior center] and basically get all the information you need to make it easier for you.”
Bringing it all together
Behind every program and activity at each of the centers is a hardworking staff.
Keri Lipperini, program manager for the Calvert County Office on Aging, said the programs and activities available at the three senior centers in Calvert often are similar to activities young people enjoy but may be adjusted to fit the needs of senior citizens. An example is volleyball. To fit the needs of some of the older participants, Lipperini’s staff will lower the net or use a different-sized ball.
Lipperini said she follows trends in the area, gets together with staff, participants and other senior centers in the area and creates programs based on all of the input.
“We all think we are younger than we are,” Lipperini said, and because of that, programs and activities are suited to fit the young at heart.
Florence Robey, the center coordinator at the Clark center, has worked there for 14 years. In order to find suitable activities and programs to fit such a wide range of seniors, Robey said “you have to step outside your own box.”
Robey gets many suggestions from participants and, like Lipperini, finds interesting things to plan based on trends in the community and elsewhere.
“I always have my eyes open, no matter where I go. If I see something interesting I hit it up, and I’m getting brochures.”
Robey said she often asks organizations if they speak at senior centers or would be willing to. Activities in all three counties also follow along with monthly holidays.
The Clark center, for example, has a New Year’s celebration on an afternoon prior to the actual date. There is a toast at noon followed by a celebration.
“The feel is so real,” Robey said.
In St. Mary’s County, Alice Allen, division manager for senior center activities, said her staff gets program ideas from seniors who suggest them and from the happenings in the community.
“We emphasize the word activity because the centers are for active individuals,” she said.
Allen said people will find that the St. Mary’s centers are filled with programs based around fitness, though there are a range of activities such as crafts, arts and music available.
“It’s so much more than bingo,” Allen said.
To learn more
All three Southern Maryland counties offer senior centers and activities at nominal costs to the participant. The centers are funded by their county governments.
The Calvert County Office on Aging runs Calvert Pines in Prince Frederick, Southern Pines in Lusby and North Beach.
The Charles County Department of Community Services runs the Richard R. Clark Senior Center in La Plata and the Indian Head, Nanjemoy and Waldorf senior centers.
The St. Mary’s County Department of Aging runs the Garvey center in Leonardtown, the Loffler center in Great Mills, the Northern center in Charlotte Hall and the Ridge nutrition site.
Some programs are state- and/or federally funded such as a lunch program offered in all three counties for citizens 60 years and older funded through the Older Americans Act.
In order to participate at centers in Charles County, the participant must be a resident of the county and at least 60. St. Mary’s and Calvert welcome seniors 50 and older and participants do not have to be a resident of the county.
Go to www.charlescounty.org/cs/aging/ in Charles, www.co.saint-marys.md.us/aging/ in St. Mary’s and www.co.cal.md.us/residents/health/aging/ in Calvert.