Residents at New Paltz’s Woodland Pond are ageless, and they are not slowing down anytime soon. Even though most have retired, they are allocating their extra time to maintaining and improving their physical health, volunteering and engaging in social activities. Some of them are even leading fitness classes and encouraging others to get or remain fit. Priding themselves on being part of an active senior living community, residents and team members ensure that there are plenty of opportunities for fitness and social engagement. The resident-led classes add another dimension to the experience in the community, and they’re a nice complement to the classes designed by the life enrichment team. Dee Snowden, a Woodland Pond resident and former teacher and aerobics instructor, assists in leading the Strength Training Plus class.
“The Strength Training class was started by two other residents, and I started filling in for them and then eventually took over,” said Snowden. “I’ve recently incorporated other exercises that focus on flexibility and balance, hence the name change from Strength Training to Strength Training Plus. The class is predictable, so I call on participating residents to help lead it. I was an aerobics instructor for 20 years, mainly for older adults, so my experience helps me in leading this class. I understand that everyone has different physical needs and limitations. People can do the class as directed, all may modify and make adjustments as needed to be as effective as possible, ensuring they do not overdo it. It’s so important to stay as active as possible. If we didn’t stay strong and flexible we would not be able to do as much as we do.”
Snowden was a school teacher/educator for most of her career, and before she retired from teaching she decided to become a certified aerobics instructor. The class she currently leads at Woodland Pond lasts an hour and is held twice a week. The class combines upper and lower body work using free weights if people choose and other movements to improve flexibility and balance. In addition to leading the strengthening fitness class, Snowden participates in other wellness classes such as chi kung, yoga and tai chi. In the past she has also participated in chair yoga and water aerobics, both of which cater to a variety of physical needs and have been designed for a range of abilities.
“In addition to Dee’s class, we have a resident-led water aerobics class,” said Sarah Hull, director of resident services at Woodland Pond. “I have never seen a more active group of seniors. It is really inspiring. We have residents who meet regularly to walk or hike outdoors, and when it is cold, they meet indoors to take advantage of walking routes within Woodland Pond. One resident spent some time developing a variety of maps of different routes and distances for these indoor walks. We have residents that participate in all kinds of awareness walks, such as the Alzheimer’s Association Walk and the Heart Association Walk. Many residents walk their dogs year-round and use them for motivation to stay fit. Some swim laps in the pool, some residents ride their bikes, others jog on the treadmills and some simply strength train. In addition to exercise, residents engage in other types of physical activity like volunteering with United Way to pull weeds, wash chairs and organize its library collection. We provide numerous options to residents. Retirement should be fulfilling and rewarding in new and different ways.”
Wanting to keep her energy up and her body strong, Snowden leads an active lifestyle and makes a point to work out four days a week. She understands that it can be difficult to stay motivated, especially when you feel too tired. However, she noted that most people will state that they don’t feel like working out before the class, but by the end of it they feel better and are glad they did it. Snowden attributes her increased energy and stamina to working out regularly.
“In addition to participating in fitness classes, it’s healthy to be involved in other activities or groups,” said Snowden. “I volunteer to lead a singing activity with residents in the health center, which requires me to walk around and be active. I also attend a watercolor class, sing in the chorus, participate in committees, play cards and much more. Woodland Pond is highly diversified, and I feel we are all involved in one thing or another, some of us multiple things! Woodland Pond provides many opportunities, and residents that do participate benefit greatly. Residents are encouraged to maintain strength and improve balance to prevent falls. The best exercise program, whether it is something you do on your own or something you do with a group, is the one you enjoy most!”
“We have such a phenomenal group of residents within our community,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond. “The residents have done a wonderful job of creating and leading all kinds of special groups, classes, projects and committees. They put their heart, soul and energy into many things that make our community a better place and contribute to their personal wellness. Every day our calendar is packed full of interesting options that cater to seniors and encourage living an active lifestyle. We have discussion groups, foreign language classes, shopping outings, happy hours, workshops, movies, concerts, committees, dancing and more. I personally enjoy seeing the residents get involved in the wide variety of activities and take advantage of new things they may have never experienced before.”