Senior center focuses on a healthier lifestyle

February 16, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Fitness instructor Barbara Scott leads a Stay Active and Independent for Life class at the Issaquah Valley Senior Center. By Chantelle Lusebrink

High stepping, ball bouncing and throwing a few upper cuts may sound like child’s play, but this is Issaquah seniors getting fit.

With more information and resources than ever, seniors are taking charge of their health through a variety of education and fitness opportunities at the Issaquah Valley Senior Center.

“I like the ball squeezing with the legs,” said Stephen Saunders, who celebrated his 87th birthday Feb. 1. “It’s just good for you. I missed a week and I’m still making up for it.”

“It’s great. I have so many that have kept coming since we started more than two years ago,” said fitness instructor Barbara Scott. “They have a contagious spirit and that’s what makes things fun.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommends two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, every week and overall muscle strength training two or more days a week for adults 65 years or older who are generally fit.

In addition, “regular exercise and physical activity are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Being physically active can help you continue to do the things you enjoy and stay independent as you age. Regular physical activity over long periods of time can produce long-term health benefits.”

The senior center’s Stay Active and Independent for Life and Sit & Be Fit classes focus on physical health, Scott said, but also important things like fall prevention, stamina and day-to-day activities, like muscle strengthening, to help seniors get into and out of their vehicles.

“One of the biggest reasons I like to do this is for fall prevention,” she said. “Once they fall, they are dependent on others for help, which can be hard for them and their families. But by helping them build their strength and their stamina, and doing a lot of balance techniques, they gain confidence and they don’t have to live with that fear.”

Scott challenges the seniors with a variety of cardiovascular movements meant to get the heart pumping, and a variety of spatial and isometric moves that help them with coordination, balance and everyday movements. For instance, passing a ball from partner to partner helps them stretch their core muscles, which can aid in them turning to look at their blind spot in a vehicle, Scott said.

Another movement they do is holding a ball in front of them and high stepping. The physical movements of high stepping and the spatial orientation of the ball help them avoid falls with improved balance when they are carrying groceries or laundry and have to step over an obstacle.

“I don’t fall anymore,” said Sally Low, who has been in class for more than two years. “I tilt, but I don’t fall and that is all due to Barbara.”

“I just have more stamina and overall, I like the stretching,” said Marilyn Fuentes, also a student of two years.

“I started class after I had open heart surgery” in 2008, said Loretta Hitchcock. “It really helped me improve.”

The best part about the senior center, though, is it’s a place in town where seniors can find exercise, health care, game nights and a good meal.

“The center provides resources to support community members who wish to remain productive and independent as they grow older,” Executive Director Courtney Jarren wrote in an e-mail. “Health screening and health-related activities are essential to this mission.”

Exercise increases the wellness of functions in the body, like oxygen flowing to the brain, which has been linked to helping increase brain function, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The senior center also provides line dancing and Scottish country dancing classes.

Not only is there a solid program of physical exercise, but there are many other health services, Jarren said.

The senior center has a foot care clinic, or a podiatry nurse, who provides nail care and treatment for those who aren’t able to do it themselves. Podiatric care is essential for pre-screening diseases like diabetes.

In March, the center will provide a nurse’s clinic with blood pressure and diabetes screening. Right now, Eastside Fire & Rescue employees come several times a month to do blood pressure screening.

The organization’s board also approved funding for a monthly dental hygienist service for $80 per visit.

Jarren said the organization is also exploring partnerships with an audiology clinic and even a local yoga instructor.

In addition to the senior center, the Julius Boehm Pool and the Issaquah Community Center offer a range of programs for discounted rates, as do many private health clubs in the area.

If you’re not one for exercise inside, then try the great outdoors. The city owns more than 1,300 acres of open space and thousands more acres are available at nearby state parks.

Before undertaking any exercise regimen, people with any health conditions should consult their physician.

Where to go

-Issaquah Community Center, click on “Departments,” then “Parks and Recreation” and then “Community Center.”

-Issaquah Valley Senior Center

Julius Boehm Pool, click on “Departments,” then “Parks and Recreation” and then “Aquatics.”

Exercise guidelines

Centers for Disease Control everyone/guidelines/ olderadults.htm

National Institutes of Health

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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