YMCAs and SCAN bring older adults together for Health and Fitness Day

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people wearing protective mask

It’s been a long and often lonely year for senior citizens. From losing family members and friends to the coronavirus to enduring long periods of isolation, the pandemic has impacted older adults in many ways.

But as a wave of COVID-19 vaccinations among the country’s most vulnerable population has occurred, three organizations are reaching out to individuals age 55 and older in central New Jersey to celebrate National Senior Health and Fitness Day on May 26.

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, the Ocean County YMCA and the Senior Citizens Activities Network (SCAN) have joined forces to bring the region’s senior citizens together in person and virtually for a special, free event dedicated to physical and mental health, injury prevention and camaraderie, according to a press release.

“This is so important to us and for all of the senior citizens who have a connection to the YMCA and beyond,” said Laurie Goganzer, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County.

“We know the pandemic has been very difficult for everyone, and senior citizens have experienced loss of connection like no other time in our history,” she said.

The three organizations are partnering with two major hospital groups and other organizations to welcome SCAN and YMCA members and the public to the Freehold, Red Bank, Old Bridge and Toms River facilities for the special event featuring activities, classes, fitness workshops and a healthy meal. For those unable to attend in person, several programs will be offered virtually, according to the press release.

The event coincides with Older Americans Month, which recognizes the important role older adults play in fostering connection and engagement to build strong resilient communities. As the country begins to emerge from lockdown during the pandemic, senior citizens are being encouraged to share their experiences to find strength, emotionally and physically, according to the press release.

“We are hoping our seniors can resume physical activities at the YMCA in their communities as well as safe exercise and fitness routines in their homes and outdoors,” said Peter Rosario, president and CEO of the Ocean County YMCA. “Some of our members have already returned to the YMCA and we would like to welcome others to join us.”

Statistics show inactivity increases with age, and by age 75, one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity. Geriatric experts say older adults show huge benefits from regular physical activity, according to the press release.

Aside from helping seniors maintain the ability to live more independently, physical exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to the Gallop ShareCare Well-Being Index, seniors who exercise regularly are 42% less likely than those who do not exercise – to report depression diagnosis.

“Area senior citizens, like those around the country, were cut off from family members and friends and regular activity over the last 12 months,” said Pat Bohse, executive director of SCAN.

“Often alone and isolated, many seniors also struggled to navigate their lives online and virtually. We are looking forward to our senior day of events because we know community-based programs can provide so many opportunities for well-being for our seniors,” Bohse said.

The National Senior Health and Fitness Day celebration will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A variety of classes will be offered at all four YMCA locations, from deep water aerobics to Zumba and yoga, and a seminar about injury prevention, plus “Walk, Talk and Stroll,” where everyone can have a fun and interactive walk together. A grab-and-go lunch will be provided by Fulfill on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the press release.

Virtual programs will include a stress management workshop, brain games, meditation, fitness and more.

“The pandemic magnified the difficulties our senior citizens experience on a normal basis,” Goganzer said. “The senior health and fitness event on May 26 is our collective opportunity to reach out to older adults and welcome them with open hearts and provide fellowship, fun and wonderful experiences in all of our facilities.”

Partnering organizations include RWJ Barnabas, CentraState Healthcare System, the VNA of Central New Jersey Community Health Center, Atlantic Physical Therapy, T-Mobile and Fulfill, which are providing additional support and information during the one-day event.

Advance registration for National Senior Health and Fitness Day is required for all participants. To sign up and view the entire schedule, visit the event web page. All participants will receive a seven-day pass to SCAN and the YMCA of their choice. For more information, contact info@ymcanj.org