January 23, 1997 in Washington Voices

Fitness And Fun Aerobics Classes Give Senior Citizens Physical Workouts And Social Encounters

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Eight years ago, Lena Saugen was laid up with a broken hip when she was hit by a car while walking near her West Central home.

Today, Saugen is a regular at the low-impact aerobics class for seniors at Sans Souci West Mobile Home Park.

“It’s helped me so much,” said Saugen, 75. “It’s marvelous. Now I can do anything.”

“I think I’m going great for my age.”

Saugen is one of about 550 seniors taking fitness classes this winter through the Community Colleges of Spokane.

Experts say the workouts help seniors feel stronger, more alert and better able to withstand the inevitable march of time.

Don’t underestimate the social value of these classes.

“I found out we have a lot of really nice people here,” said Ron Goad, who joined the class for the first time last week.

Goad is a retired police chief, who finished out his career as the director of campus security at Gonzaga University.

“I like to keep in shape,” he said.

He and Saugen are part of a group of about 15 people taking low-impact aerobics at Sans Souci at the west end of Boone Avenue.

The mobile home park once was the site of Natatorium Park, for decades Spokane’s amusement center.

Low-impact aerobics is offered at five other locations on the North Side, and a dozen locationsn all throughout Spokane.

It is easily the most popular offering in the Seniors Program of the Institute of Extended Learning, an arm of the Community Colleges of Spokane.

“We see learning as life long,” said Pat Freeman, head of the Seniors Program.

Throughout Spokane County, seniors can take advantage of about three dozen different subjects or activity classes, including art, computers, history, writing and foreign language.

In the fitness area, seniors can take Tai Chi, stretch and flex, clogging, water exercise, acupressure massage and fitness from a chair.

The cost is subsidized with state tax dollars to make the classes affordable for seniors on fixed incomes. Tuition for a 10-week term runs from $5 for Tai Chi to $39 for a computer class.

Freeman said seniors can still enroll for winter quarter if they are willing to pay the tuition.

In all, about 1,000 seniors take classes in all subjects each quarter.

College officials said they would like to expand the senior offerings outside Spokane in the future.

Freeman said the classes meet a statewide goal of providing educational opportunities for people of all ages.

“For seniors, if they are not active like this they are not going to stay as well as long,” Freeman said.

In a way, the Seniors Program offers an antidote to early aging and the need for costly health and nursing care. That saves the state money in the long run, she said.

Fitness instructor Denise Fanazick has been teaching low-impact aerobics to seniors for nine years. She also teaches water exercise at the YWCA.

“You walk into class and you feel the energy,” Fanazick said. “It’s an upper for them and for me. I think exercise breeds energy.”

“These people, they never get old. That’s the joy,” she said.

Fanazick warms up the group by having them walk in circles, and then stretching.

She wears a microphone attached to a headset transmitter so she can call out her directions and have them amplified for easier hearing.

During the sessions, she plays cassette tapes with tunes seniors recognize.

Her workouts stress developing a good range of motion in the arms, legs, feet and hands. Her students also work on strengthening their balance.

Low-impact aerobics is intended to give a good cardio-vascular workout without risk of injury or soreness.

Fanazick encourages her class members to exercise at their own pace and not take risks with their health. New enrollees must check with their doctor and follow their doctor’s advice before starting the workouts.

The senior fitness students are predominately women, but Fanazick is seeing a trickle of men into the program.

Goad was welcomed last week to the Sans Souci class as the first man to join that group.

“He’s breaking the ice,” Fanazick told the class.

It didn’t take long for Goad to get in step. He said fitness has always been important. Five years ago, he completed a 100-mile bicycle ride.

Betty Kraus, who lives in northeast Spokane, takes a clogging class through the Senior Program. She’s been taking low-impact aerobics for 12 years now.

“It’s a lot more fun to exercise in a class,” she said.

Doris McCoy said she hopes the workouts will stave off a tendency among women in her family to develop osteoporosis in later years. That is a crippling disease caused by loss of bone density, leading to fractures.

Low-impact aerobics are perfect because they don’t put too much pressure on joints and bones, she said, adding her doctor is encouraging her to exercise.

McCoy is a bit of a celebrity. She was the only woman to play with Bill Grafmiller and the Rhythm Kings, a band popular locally in the 1940s. She played saxophone, and met her husband, Chuck, in the band, she said.

Helen E. Brown said she fondly remembers the big dances at Natatorium Park. Now she’s doing aerobic workouts near where the dance hall once stood.

She suffers from a weak muscle around her heart, so her doctor told her to take it easy during the workouts. She participates in about half the session, and stops when the class does a lot of arm exercising.

“If I get tired, I quit,” she said. “Then I go back to it.”

At Sans Souci, the group has gotten to be such good friends they get together for potlucks.

“Where else can you have so much fun?” Brown said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)

MEMO: Changed from the South Side Voice

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. WHERE TO GO Low-impact aerobics is available at these six places on the North Side: Hillyard Senior Center, 4001 N. Cook; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. Sinto Senior Center, 1124 W. Sinto; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:10 a.m. Carol Lee’s Dance Studio, 6324 N. Standard; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:55 a.m. Garry Middle School, 725 E. Joseph; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. Sans Souci West Mobile Home Park, 3231 W. Boone; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. Corbin Senior Center, 827 W. Cleveland; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10:20 a.m. Anyone who wants to sign up for the classes may call the office of the Seniors Program, 533-3393.

2. TIPS FOR SENIORS WHO WANT TO EXERCISE AND STAY FIT According to the International Association of Fitness Professionals, seniors who stay physically active can reduce their risk of disease, injuries from falls and mental illness. Here are some tips: Before starting an exercise program, consult with a physician to determine the safest and most appropriate way to stay healthy. Swimming and water exercise are excellent because they don’t put strain on joints. Stationary cycling and walking are other safe options, but seniors can take part in a wide range of physical pursuits. Warm up with low-intensity activity like walking and moving the arms in circles. A moderate workout of 30 minutes or more during most days of the week is best. Flexibility exercises include stretching the arms, legs, shoulders and lower back, holding each stretch for 30 seconds. Be careful not to over stretch. Gentle stretching is good. For example, keep knees bent when reaching for toes. Stretches are recommended at the end of a workout. Drink lots of water, breathe deeply and rest when fatigue sets in. Cool down by gradually reducing exercise intensity. That will prevent muscle aches the next day. Working with a professional, for example through a class, is recommended for maximum safety and guidance. - Mike Prager

Changed from the South Side Voice

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. WHERE TO GO Low-impact aerobics is available at these six places on the North Side: Hillyard Senior Center, 4001 N. Cook; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. Sinto Senior Center, 1124 W. Sinto; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:10 a.m. Carol Lee’s Dance Studio, 6324 N. Standard; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8:55 a.m. Garry Middle School, 725 E. Joseph; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. Sans Souci West Mobile Home Park, 3231 W. Boone; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. Corbin Senior Center, 827 W. Cleveland; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10:20 a.m. Anyone who wants to sign up for the classes may call the office of the Seniors Program, 533-3393.

2. TIPS FOR SENIORS WHO WANT TO EXERCISE AND STAY FIT According to the International Association of Fitness Professionals, seniors who stay physically active can reduce their risk of disease, injuries from falls and mental illness. Here are some tips: Before starting an exercise program, consult with a physician to determine the safest and most appropriate way to stay healthy. Swimming and water exercise are excellent because they don’t put strain on joints. Stationary cycling and walking are other safe options, but seniors can take part in a wide range of physical pursuits. Warm up with low-intensity activity like walking and moving the arms in circles. A moderate workout of 30 minutes or more during most days of the week is best. Flexibility exercises include stretching the arms, legs, shoulders and lower back, holding each stretch for 30 seconds. Be careful not to over stretch. Gentle stretching is good. For example, keep knees bent when reaching for toes. Stretches are recommended at the end of a workout. Drink lots of water, breathe deeply and rest when fatigue sets in. Cool down by gradually reducing exercise intensity. That will prevent muscle aches the next day. Working with a professional, for example through a class, is recommended for maximum safety and guidance. - Mike Prager


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