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YMCA offers classes to help senior citizens combat loneliness with exercise

Posted at 11:17 AM, Jan 23, 2023

LYNDHURST, Ohio — Feeling less energized and motivated during the cold winter months isn’t unusual.

Everyone needs social interactions to survive and thrive, but as people age, they often find themselves spending more time alone, which can be difficult during the winter months.

Fortunately, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland accommodates a wide variety of interests and functional abilities in its programming for older adults. The Y has fitness classes specifically designed for older adults.

“It's been fantastic. I've really enjoyed it and I like getting out and talking to people and meeting people, doing different exercise,” said Jackie Britt of Mayfield. “You meet new people, and you socialize with them. And it's a good experience.”

Jackie makes a habit of getting to the YMCA four or five times a week. While she enjoys the exercise classes, there’s also a sort of community to which she feels connected.

“It's better than sitting at home by yourself because I live alone. And so, it's nice to come out,” Britt said.

The Active Older Adult (AOA) exercise courses give participants an opportunity to stay physically active, socialize and build a community of like-minded friends. Exercise classes for older adults include water exercise, strengthening and cardio classes, yoga and stretching classes and walking clubs.

“Group fitness is group therapy for the body," said adult director Loni Beverly. “It just provides that camaraderie of everybody having fun, especially when you have a little bit of a dance element to it.”

A study by NextDoor in 2020 found that knowing as few as six neighbors reduces the likelihood of feeling lonely and is linked to lowering depression, social anxiety and financial concerns related to COVID-19.

But loneliness isn’t just about being alone, and the YMCA’s classes are as much about connecting as they are about conditioning. The Y also offers bus trips to help seniors get out on the town for fun excursions, including plays, restaurant tastings and boat rides.

“It is tough. You know, they want to get out, but they're afraid maybe perhaps there's barriers as whether or their bones feel a little bit heavier during this time,” said adult director Loni Beverly.

Exercise causes our body to release endorphins, which can improve mood and interact with receptors in the brain that reduce our perception of pain. In addition, senior fitness centers and classes can become a social hub, and Britt has tapped into that social support system that enhances her social and emotional well-being as well as physical health.

“It's like a big family here. You know, everybody's always happy,” Britt said. “We can sit out after the classes, and we socialize.”

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