Area seniors are in line for President Barack Obama’s Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, a program designed to engage Americans in exercise to better enhance their lives.
The goal is to exercise 30 minutes a day five times a week for six weeks of the eight-week program. Once the program is completed, the participant receives a certificate signed by President Obama, along with a lapel pin. The certificate has five stars on it for earning a certain level of participation.
At senior living facility Atria Sunlake, 3250 S. Fort Apache Road, some seniors took the challenge to heart. Olga Loi, the facility’s engage life director, leads its exercise classes.
This day, 14 of the facility’s 114 residents participated, seated before Loi in folding chairs. A few were in wheelchairs. Many wore gray T-shirts printed with the slogan, “Atria Moves! Where we stay physically engaged.”
The class began with simple breathing exercises, followed by getting the muscles ready and splaying out the fingers by “playing the piano” — prompting one man to sing “Row, row, row your boat” — and reaching for the sky. After stretching, the tasks got harder.
No one broke into song when Loi called out, “OK, now, let’s wash the windows,” but they did do their version of “The Karate Kid” buffing out a car.
Loi called out, “Let’s swim,” and the seniors pantomimed the breaststroke.
For abdominal work, participants lifted their feet and extended their legs, then in and back. With each move, the participants did their personal best.
Lena Dorsey, 78, has always been involved in sports and was a swimmer. She exercises daily and earned the program’s five stars and lapel pin. She’s also taken a four-month class at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, 888 W. Bonneville Ave., that was geared specifically for balance.
“I like to stay in shape because I feel better,” Dorsey said.
That sentiment was echoed by Lenore Rappaport, 82, a longtime dancer who called the exercise class a “bright spot” in her day.
George Costas, 66, is a regular participant. He said the president’s challenge class was what he needed to get his heart going. He also takes tai chi classes. He had a debilitating stroke in 2003, which slowed him down.
“I can’t catch the girls now. They’re too fast,” Costas joked.
Besides the seated exercise class, Atria Sunlake offers tai chi, a stretching class and an arthritis class. It also has Laughter Yoga, which was developed by Dr. Madan Kataria.
Kataria is the “guru of giggling” physician from India who wrote about the concept in his 2002 book “Laugh For No Reason.” It was the focus of a study by Oxford University, which, among other things, found it resulted in pain thresholds being significantly higher.
Katherine Wilson, 84, has always been active. She played sports in high school and said she feels better if she keeps her body moving. Should she miss a day, she can tell by the way she feels.
“If they had a basketball team for women, I’d be on it,” she said.
Irene Lerner, 88, said dancing had always been her exercise of choice and credited that discipline with keeping her nimble. She engages in some type of exercise soon after rising each day and was one of the first to earn five stars in the program. What would she tell someone who wasn’t involved in the classes?
“It’s good to get out of your room,” Lerner said. “It’s a way to be around other people, besides being good exercise.”
Loi said the age range at Atria Sunlake is 58 to 100. About 40 people participate regularly in the in-house classes, with no more than 10 percent engaging in some sort of exercise program out in the community.
The exercise programs were developed using information from Dr. Henry S. Lodge, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University Medical Center and co-author of books such as “Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy—Until You’re 80 and Beyond” and “Younger Next Year for Women.”
Loi pulled out a DVD featuring Lodge and said it explained how being inactive led to decreased movement and quality of life but that exercising could rejuvenate one’s cells and reverse some aging elements.
“All of the Atria (family) embraces the philosophy of Dr. Lodge. That’s why we try to offer two exercise classes a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon,” Loi said. “We only have, like, five people in the morning. … We want them (residents) to be active, to engage in life. We want them to be active, as much as they can. The hard part for some of them is standing up, balancing.”
Atria Sunlake’s sister facility, Atria Seville, 2000 N. Rampart Blvd., had 20 residents earn five stars. Atria Seville has 125 residents.
Atria Sutton, 3185 E. Flamingo Road, which has 132 residents, saw 10 participants receive five stars.
For more information about the program, visit presidentschallenge.org.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.