The Greater Joliet Area YMCA is focused on serving the community and supporting a lifetime of healthy living. We also take pride in the partnerships we have built over the years to help achieve those goals. One of our newest partnerships, recently formed with Senior Services of Will County, has helped to introduce new fitness opportunities for area seniors.
Last year, Senior Services of Will County Executive Director Barry Kolanowski met with Y officials to discuss ways the two organizations might be able to work together to provide assistance and programming for seniors. From these conversations, it was determined one of the areas where combining resources would be most useful was through a Stretch and Tone Fitness Class.
The class, which serves individuals 55 and older and emphasizes cardiovascular activity, flexibility and muscle toning, has now been taught by YMCA instructors at the Senior Services building since June.
“Having a class that is run by somebody who is a professional in that area gives seniors more encouragement to attend, and when they attend the class we reduce social isolation that can also occur for seniors,” Kolanowski said.
Alissa Koenig, Health and Wellness Director for the Galowich and Smith Family YMCAs, has relished her time working as one of the class instructors.
“It’s about giving seniors more opportunities. When they take this class they also find out what else the Y has to offer,” Koenig said. “When I speak to them many don’t know that we don’t turn anyone away due to the inability to pay.”
Koenig says she tries to take class participants on an adventure with movements coordinated to mimic real life scenarios.
“One day we went to ‘the beach’. We went through parking the car, walking through the sand with high knees, and playing with imaginary beach balls. And these were all movements participants could add weights to,” Koenig said. “I’ve taught classes where we’ve ‘brought home the groceries’. We squatted, lifted them up, and simulated putting them away. It’s all about function.”
For someone like Elouise McNair, who has been attending classes since July, these exercises and continued positive reinforcement has led to great results.
“A girlfriend of mine talked me into coming. I’m a retiree and this gets me out of the house. I’ve lost a ton of weight, over 20 pounds,” McNair said.
And her improvements have gone beyond muscles alone.
“I just like the exercise. I’m an aesmatic and I’ve been able to improve my breathing,” McNair said.
Koenig said she has noticed the wide range of positive steps participants are experiencing.
“We’re definitely trying to maintain their quality of life. We’re seeing flexibility come back, we’re seeing balance come back. Many individuals have seen their blood pressure go down. And their spirits have improved,” she said.
Kolanowksi said the partnership between Senior Services and the YMCA is in a position to grow.
“We’re helping the Y identify the needs of the current aging population and in this case it is our first formal use of the Y in a class setting. We’re extraordinarily thankful for the results,” he said.
The Stretch and Tone Fitness class runs at the Senior Services of Will County building on Tuesdays from 8:30-9:30 a.m. and is free to Y Facility Members.