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YMCA event emphasizes fitness is attainable at any age

Cathy Cavanaugh, left, and Fran Randall hold their poses during Hatha yoga class at the Butler YMCA Wednesday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

Dee Ann Demby walked senior citizens at the Butler YMCA through yoga poses paired with controlled breathing Wednesday in order to relieve muscle tightness and pain by strengthening their joints.

While the lesson, which was given for free at the YMCA’s National Senior Health and Fitness Day, was not molded specifically for senior citizens, Demby, who teaches yoga classes at the YMCA, said it was meant to be accessible because Hatha yoga can be beneficial to those of all ages.

“I don’t treat them like they’re old, I just gear it towards humans,” Demby said. “It’s about balance, focus and awareness and it can help fix a lot of things.”

The YMCA organizes an event every year to recognize Senior Health and Fitness Day, because, according to member engagement specialist Brenda McGuire, seniors make up a good portion of members at the YMCA.

In addition to offering free exercise and fitness classes for nonmembers to try, the staff brings in local businesses and organizations to speak with senior citizens, answer their questions and provide resources aimed at filling different needs that have arisen in their golden years.

Butler YMCA Hatha yoga instructor Dee Ann Demby leads a class Wednesday at the Y. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

Some organizations attending were Lutheran SeniorLife, Newhaven Court at Clearview and United Healthcare. Each sponsored booths where people could find resources or information.

Providing an informational day for senior citizens also works to get them into a social environment, which is another positive impact, McGuire said.

“We’re just trying to help the community by bringing vendors in,” McGuire said. “The more (seniors) get out of the house and do social things, the better it is for them.”

McGuire said many people are aware that their bodies and physical ability change as they age, but not everyone knows how to adapt to their altered abilities.

The YMCA already has myriad exercise classes available specifically to senior citizens, and McGuire said Wednesday’s event was meant to further emphasize the lessons they convey.

“As you get older, your joints get tighter, and you can’t move as easily as you can in your 20s,” McGuire said. “It’s good for you to stay active as long as you can, so a lot of these classes are all about function and balance.”

McGuire said most of the classes made for seniors are low-impact workouts and sessions, and many take place in the organization’s pool. The YMCA also has chair yoga and classes for people with specific conditions, such as exercise for people who have Parkinson’s Disease.

Steve Appel, of Chicora, attends the exercise for Parkinson’s classes at the YMCA. He was diagnosed in 2019.

Following a class Wednesday, in which new people were able to try yoga, Appel said the YMCA has helped him recognize not only how the disease has changed his body, but how to continue staying healthy through it.

“People see the tremors but it’s also cognitive issues, hand-eye coordination, it affects everything,” Appel said. “It’s very good to be together here, it has helped me learn about it.”

Appel also recognized the social benefits of regularly taking the exercise class, which has helped keep him going thanks to the shared motivation of other people.

“You start to have a camaraderie with others who have it, and we talk to each other about it,” he said. “You tend to be like a support group to each other.”

Despite the event being aimed at people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, Demby said she wanted to convey to visitors that they can be physically healthy at any age. She said yoga can help anyone realize what they are capable of.

“Being old is not a curse, it’s a blessing. It’s all about how you approach it,” Demby said. “You don’t want to place limits on people, you want to place possibilities instead.”

Fran Randall, left, and Mary Jo Straney hold their poses during Hatha yoga class at the Butler YMCA Wednesday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Butler YMCA Hatha yoga instructor Dee Ann Demby leads a class Wednesday at the Y. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle
Fran Randall of butler relaxes after a stretch during Hatha yoga class at the Butler YMCA Wednesday. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle