Senior Programming Soars
By Katie Ettish
Senior programming is booming in West Fargo, N.D.
Recreation Manager Lance Belisle explains that the West Fargo Park District responded to the public’s request for additional options.
“We have quickly realized that older adults are seeking more active programming and are not interested in just sitting around and playing Bingo in their retirement years,” he says. He adds that the district was able to expand programming to this demographic since the Rustad Recreation Center opened in 2016. Prior to opening this facility, there were only two activities that focused on older adults; since then, everything from fitness classes to friendly and competitive card games to wellness walks have been added.
Here’s a look at some of the additions:
Bone Builders is a free fitness program that strives to work against the negative effects of osteoporosis. The disease, which causes bones that have lost density or mass to become susceptible to breaking, affects the lives of an estimated 54-million Americans, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. By doing some simple, routine weight training, participants can protect themselves from osteoporosis-related fractures by increasing muscle strength and bone density. Trained instructors volunteer their time to lead this low-intensity exercise program. The hour-long classes are offered twice a week.
Research has shown that performing exercises that improve strength, balance, and fitness is an effective way for seniors to reduce their chances of falling. Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL) is a program for adults 55 and older, and the district is excited to be a pilot site. The exercises can be completed while standing or sitting, which provide an opportunity for seniors of all physical abilities. The class consists of five areas: warm-up, aerobics (low impact), balance/cool down, strength, and stretching/education. The hour-long class is offered three times a week.
Card games are a great leisure activity that brings people together to have fun, while also being a little competitive. Research states strategic card games that exercise memory and concentration may assist with preventing and reducing cognitive decline in older adults, therefore having a positive impact on the quality of life. The district’s Pinochle Players meet every Tuesday from 1 to 4 p.m. Participants play eight rounds of Pinochle while competing for prizes. Pre-registration is not required, which makes it easy for seniors to participate as it works with their schedules.
Pickleball has recently grown into one of the most popular sports in the country, and it has found a home in West Fargo. The park district offers pickleball times exclusively for adults Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a nominal fee. All skill levels are welcome, and free beginner lessons are available. Currently, the park district has more than 250 players actively participating, making this one of the most successful programs offered. These passionate but friendly competitors are finding that physical activity isn’t the only benefit of playing, as many of them enjoy socializing with other players as well.
A Walk In The Park
Walking has been proven to provide endless health benefits for seniors, including a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and stroke. In May the district invited older adults to join them for an active morning at South Elmwood Park for the inaugural “A Walk in the Park.” During this free event, Mayor Bernie Dardis led participants on a one-mile walk on the park’s paved path, featuring fun activities and music. Refreshments and light snacks were served.
Not all activities for seniors involve being active and competitive. The district proudly sponsors a senior picnic for residents over the age of 60. This social gathering is a community favorite, giving longtime friends an opportunity to catch up. Participants enjoy live music while lunch is served by park district staff and board members.
The Senior Expo takes place annually in September. The purpose of this event is for seniors to connect with local organizations and businesses that offer services and products for their age group. Exhibitors are encouraged to educate seniors about these services and help them realize how many great options there are within the community. In addition to visiting with local vendors, the Senior Expo has educational speakers. The event is free and open to the public.
Executive Director Barb Erbstosser is extremely proud of the changes that have been made to expand senior programming. “Our programs are really driven by what the seniors want to see offered,” she says. “A lot of these programs have been their ideas, and we are able to provide the space and training to implement and grow them into something successful. In the past we’ve tried to run some programs the seniors didn’t really grab onto. But looking at the successful programs we currently offer, it makes me extremely happy to see these partnerships develop.”
Katie Ettish is the Events and Communications Specialist for the West Fargo Park District in North Dakota. Reach her at Katie@wfparks.org.