Successful fitness and social program for seniors on verge of growing

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013 10:48 am | BY PAUL EVEREST
Paul Everest/MVP Staff
Paul Everest/MVP Staff
Clare MacMillan (left) and Catherine Ellis work out during a Senior Circuit and Social session at the Ralph Klein Centre on Oct. 10. The program offers seniors a chance to exercise and socialize with their peers.
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The sweat on his brow and the rosiness in his cheeks at the end of the class show Don Dwyer had a good workout.

The 61-year-old is one of roughly 30 people participating in the current session of a program called the Senior Circuit and Social offered through the Community Learning Campus (CLC) two days a week and he said the program gives seniors a tailor-made workout where they can exercise at their own pace.

“The beauty of the class is, is that even though there’s a wide range of ages from 55 to 85, it’s set up so that everybody can work as hard as they can on an individual basis. So that at the end of every hour, I’m soaking wet and other people are too,” he said. “It encourages you to get out, it gets you into the rhythm of working out and you begin to enjoy it and then do it at home and it grows from there and it becomes a habit.”

The program is now in its third year and the classes, which can take up to 30 people, are typically at capacity, said Brittany Ehmann, a recreation and fitness programmer at the CLC.

The aim of the program, she added, is to provide a safe environment where seniors can exercise and socialize with their peers.

“We basically started the class to fill a need in our community,” Ehmann said. “Our seniors can stay active during the summer months, but come fall and winter it’s a lot harder for them to stay active with obviously the environment we have in Alberta.”

Each class is taught by Lavona Sjolie, a certified fitness instructor, and focuses on strength, flexibility and functional fitness.

“We’re not here to body build, we’re here to maintain our dignity and independence,” Sjolie said, adding the exercises she teaches include squats to help seniors get themselves out of chairs, balance techniques and a cardio component.

She has taught the class for two-and-a-half years and said she sees the benefits to its participants during each session.

“It’s so rewarding to walk in and see them happy and say ‘I can do this, I can do that.’”

After the one-hour class, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, wraps, participants are offered a chance to sit down on the second level of the Ralph Klein Centre and enjoy coffee and snacks with their classmates and Ehmann said socializing is also encouraged through holiday gift giving.

“We really look at the social aspect of it being just as important as the fitness part because a lot of our seniors are sometimes isolated throughout not only the winter months but all year.”

Ehmann said the CLC is looking to expand the program, given its success so far.

In the new year, the program will hopefully grow to include a “mobile class” where instructors will come to seniors lodges or other community centres to reach participants who can’t come to the CLC.

Giving seniors a chance to stay active on and off campus, she added, will hopefully give them the ability to ward off health problems later in life.

“The senior programming and, potentially the new additions to our programming, could really do a good job of being a preventative health measure rather than a reactive where we’re always, in hospitals or the health-care system, trying to solve the problem that already exists.”

The cost of the program is $60 for a six-week session and the next session begins on Nov. 11, with registration opening on Oct. 15.

To register, or for more information, call 403-507-7782 or visit


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