By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
When 70-something Frank Becker started participating in Our Lady of Lourdes– Bettendorf’s annual walking challenge, he didn’t just help himself recuperate from heart troubles. He also proved himself a competitor by winning the challenge two years in a row. “That got some of the younger ones riled up,” he said with a chuckle.
Keeping an active lifestyle can help senior citizens make the most of their golden years. “It can help diabetics use less insulin, it can help people heal faster after hip and knee replacements, it can help you sleep better, give you more energy and help you have a better attitude toward maturity,” said Reggie Wanda, an 85-year-old fitness assistant at CASI in Davenport and a member of St. John Vianney Parish-Bettendorf.
Senior community centers like CASI can be a great place for seniors to better their health through guided personal workouts or through group sessions, she said. They can also be a wonderful place to socialize. Senior citizen Jan Dorgan, a member of Holy Family Parish–Davenport, also serves as a fitness assistant at CASI. She is a widow and said many seniors deal with feelings of loneliness after the death of a spouse. Building camaraderie and friendships at the gym or through group exercise can help with the coping process. “I’ve met so many neat people here,” she said, adding that it is nice to be able to share life with people who can relate to the trials common to aging.
Community centers and fitness centers are also excellent places for seniors to exercise and build friendships, said Roseann Karbacka, a parish nurse at St. Mary Parish in Fairfield. In the town’s recreation center, she said seniors can walk gently in either the indoor or outdoor pool or participate in low-impact fitness classes like Tai Chi or chair yoga. Smaller communities like Fairfield — population 9,500 — may not have senior centers, but many will have a community center of some kind with fitness opportunities, she said.
St. Mary-Fairfield has also followed in the footsteps of a number of other diocesan parishes by hosting a walking challenge. Many of the senior citizens in the parish are participating. Karbacka reports that they enjoy reporting their steps each week and having people with whom they can stay accountable and talk about fitness and life.
Sometimes, transportation, location or mobility may prevent a senior citizen from engaging in fitness activities outside of the home or neighborhood, said Carol Burns, parish nurse at Our Lady of Victory in Davenport. She suggests a gentle walk, an exercise video, or simply getting out of a chair to loosen up the muscles once in a while. She emphasized the importance of having a phone handy in case of an emergency, as well as a pair of supportive shoes. Our Lady of Victory’s health advocate Bonnie Beyhl said seniors should always consult with a doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
As for Becker, he is enjoying his active lifestyle, which has allowed him to stay in shape, make friends and keep up with his grandchildren. When he took his 18-year-old grandson to Paris recently, they didn’t use public transportation to take them to some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. “We walked everywhere,” he said.