Meeting people, staying active helps the aging process


Susan Bier dances through a line dance routine at a senior line dancing class at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville on January 21.

Ashley Crane/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.

Shirley Waterman reminds her class to roll their shoulders as about a dozen women step in sync to oldies music.

Facts

FYI

Activities for seniors
Gainesville/Alachua County Senior Recreation Center, 5701 NW 34th St.
Daily classes and activities from bingo to yoga on most weekdays. For more information, call 265-9040.
PrimeTime Institute, Meets at Senior Recreation Center, 5701 NW 34th St.
Informational classes held most Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, call Charity Blomeley at 332-6917.
Shepherd's Center of Gainesville: A variety of classes from crocheting to writing to arts and crafts meet at Trinity United Methodist Church, 4000 NW 53rd Ave. Call Anna Langford at 386-462-5876 for more information.
Thelma Boltin Senior Activity Center: Programs every weekday from 8 a.m. to noon. Topics include arts and crafts, movies, board games and more, Thelma Boltin Center, 516 NE Second Ave. Call 334-2103 for more information.
Albert "Ray" Massey Westside Recreation Center: Classes include bridge, art, ceramics and woodworking, times vary, Westside Recreation Center, 1001 NW 34th St. Call 334-2186.

For the past 10 years, Waterman, 81, has taught fitness classes at the Shepherd's Center of Gainesville. She said she began teaching aerobics a year after she retired and makes up each routine using Richard Simmons as inspiration.

"My mother was a physical education teacher. When I was young, my parents lived to be in their 70s," she said. "I thought if you got to be 80, that was fantastic."

The class, which is held at Trinity United Methodist Church, is open to both men and women. Most members are in their early 60s to late 80s.

Staying active is just one way seniors can stay healthier. Regular exercise can help with blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and other conditions that older people often deal with.

"I would say to try to do whatever you can to remain physically active," said Dr. Thomas Buford, who regularly works with seniors as director of the Health Promotion Center at the University of Florida's Institute on Aging.

Buford said it's important for seniors to not overwhelm themselves by trying to do too much.

"It all starts with a single step," he said. "You don't ever want to try to do too much too fast."

Waterman taught physical education for 26 years before she retired in 2002. She said she's exercised every day for as long as she can remember.

"We're meant to move. We're not meant to just sit," she said. "It's good mentally, physically and emotionally."

Jean Thomas, 78, said she didn't exercise regularly when she was younger. She started coming to the Shepherd's Center classes after a friend invited her.

She said she recovers from injuries quickly, which she attributes to her regular exercise.

"This is really better than rehab," she said. "I'm in better shape for doing this."

Buford said companionship can be as beneficial as physical exercise.

"Isolation for older adults is really a big factor in the decline of their health," he said, adding that making friends and developing relationships is important among the elderly.

At the PrimeTime Institute of Alachua County, classes are held twice a week. Experts in different fields visit with presentations and answer questions.

Gainesville resident Ida Rodocker, 89, said she comes to the classes for the companionship.

"My dog isn't much for conversation," she said, laughing. "No matter what the topic is, I always find it interesting."

Rodocker, who worked for Pan-American Airlines for 28 years before she retired, said she thinks it's important for people to make friends and get out of the house as they age.

"Otherwise, they'd sit in rocking chairs and rock themselves to death," she said.

She said she thinks she does well for her age partly because she stays active in the community.

"The thing about aging...you don't have to do it gracefully, but do it with a bit of sense," she said. "Don't just sit."

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