Senior citizens can benefit greatly from adding yoga and breathing exercises to their repertoire.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with a unique group of women who attend SilverSneakers® Yoga (chair yoga) three times per week at the YMCA. They tell me the classes have helped most with their balance and breathing. If you get them talking, though, they will tell you they have gained so much more from the classes than they ever expected.
Despite all the advances in technology and the ability to communicate via FaceTime and through social media, almost half of adults reportedly feel lonely all or most of the time. For seniors, loneliness affects their mental and emotional health, and can even be detrimental to their physical health. The group I talked with meets for exercise, but also enjoys each other’s company. They have become good friends and a support group for each other. The overall health benefits they have gained far exceed the physical ones. That is what makes this group so special.
Ranging from 74 to 86 years young, these new friends all come from different places, have varied opinions, religions, backgrounds and lifestyles. One of the things they do have in common is that they were all professional women who missed the camaraderie they had at work. They have found that camaraderie at the YMCA, where they also found their mutual love for yoga.
They enjoy seeing each other at the Y so much, they arrive early just to sit and talk first. Adrila Parghi was the first to suggest they get together outside of the Y and go to lunch. The group has grown to as many as seven who dine together and they never visit the same place twice.
Each of them came to the YMCA for different reasons. Mary Ferguson joined in 2001 and started swimming after recovering from an injury. Parghi started coming in 2003. She began taking SilverSneakers® classes and enjoyed volunteering for the YMCA, raising funds for its Annual Campaign.
Christine Lemmert became a Y member at her daughter’s suggestion when she moved here from Key West.
“It (the YMCA) has changed my life,” Lemmert said. “I have more friends here now than I have in my hometown.”
Joyce Cecchi is a graduate of the YMCA Livestrong Program, which is a free 12-week program for cancer survivors and their families.
“I had a pacemaker put in a month ago, and was in the ICU for seven days,” Cecchi said. “These ladies kept me alive and the yoga kept me breathing. I come out feeling better.”
Lee Mayer retired in 2010 and, shortly after, started falling at home. After a couple of falls, a neighbor, much older than she, told her she needed to do yoga.
“If she (her neighbor) could do it,” Mayer said, “so can I!”
They met in SilverSneakers® Chair Yoga and they all testify that regular attendance in the class has done wonders for their physical health. Ferguson attests the breathing exercises help with anxiety and stress, and Mayer confirms it helps her sleep better.
“We have a bond,” Mayer said. “We want to be healthy. We want to be happy and we want to be with our family as long as we can.”
SilverSneakers® and other Active Older Adult classes at the YMCA are geared specifically for older members who are young at heart. The programs, classes and events touch on spirit, mind and body. Many insurance companies cover these classes and activities as an insurance benefit for group retirees and Medicare plan holders. Inquire at your nearest Y to see if you or someone you know qualifies for SilverSneakers®.
Angela Fulgieri is a Program Director for the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA. Write her at email@example.com.