Fit for life
Photo by Desirée Meyers
Campus/county partnership yielding health benefits for area's senior citizens
by Jan Lucas
With the addition of a sixth senior fitness center this spring, TU and Baltimore County are keeping pace with the needs of an expanding over-60 population.
The Parkville Senior Center’s fitness center should open in late April, says Sandy Feldman, membership services and fitness center project coordinator for the Baltimore County Department of Aging (BCDA).
TU’s College of Health Professions and the BCDA joined forces in 2005 with the goal of opening and operating eight senior fitness centers at the county’s existing Senior Centers.
The 19 centers provide a variety of health and fitness, social, recreational and educational programming, with membership available free of charge to all Baltimore County residents age 60 and over. The Towson, Catonsville, Cockeysville, Dundalk and Randallstown locations offer fitness centers, with Parkville poised to join the lineup next month.
The addition of fitness centers is designed to serve the county’s expanding senior population—including leading-edge baby boomers now entering their 60s. All offer state-of-the-art equipment, professional staff and individually tailored and supervised exercise programs. “We have TV and music,” says Feldman. “Everything you’d find at a gym except the showers.”
Each fitness center is staffed by a director, a flex-time employee who can cover for the director as needed, and TU students. Undergraduates from the College of Health Professions’ exercise science program complete clinical rotations at the centers under the director’s supervision.
“It’s a great place for them to hone their clinical skills,” says Wellness Center director Bill Forbes, who also directs TU’s Senior Fitness Center Project. “Students often find it especially rewarding to work with older people who really appreciate everything that’s done for them.”
Feldman also describes the cross-generational experience as a “win-win” for both the 20-somethings and their over-60 clientele. “Students learn how to work with seniors, and of course the seniors enjoy being around young people,” she says.
Forbes explains that the senior fitness centers require would-be participants to obtain medical clearances from their physicians before proceeding. “Once they’ve secured that, the director conducts a comprehensive assessment, develops a personalized exercise prescription and teaches the client how to use the equipment properly,” he says.
He says those who make a commitment to fitness can see a real difference in a relatively short time. “Participants get one-on-one instruction, plus reevaluation at 13 weeks, 26 weeks and one year,” he adds. “We’ve seen some pretty impressive results.”
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