Strong seniors stay fit this fall

Russell Anglin

Nine seniors participated in an hour-long workout Tuesday at 9 a.m., completing a cycle of exercises including shoulder presses, wide-legged squats, leg lifts and various stretches for Quay County Extension Service and Mesalands Community College’s “Strong Seniors Stay Young” program.

“One, up, touch, down and two, up, touch, down and three …” Quay County Extension Service home economist Brenda Bishop instructed from the front of a Mesalands workout room, coaching her students while lifting handweights.

This fall marks the third session of the Tucumcari strong seniors program. Bishop said she has also organized classes in Forest and Conchas, and she has seen her students’ lives improve.

“In our first class (there were) some people with walkers and all who could barely get up,” Bishop said. “By the end of the class, they were using their walkers still, but they were able to get out of their chairs much easier.”

Bishop said she attended a national meeting of home economists in Nashville in 2007 where she heard Miriam Nelson, Tufts University professor and author of “Strong Women Stay Young,” give a presentation on how older men and women can beat arthritis pain through exercise and nutrition. Bishop wanted to start an exercise program for seniors at that time but the extension office lacked funding.

In February 2009, the extension office received state funding to implement the fitness program and held a statewide training session on Nelson’s Strong Women Program fitness techniques. The program emphasizes strength training in women to increase bone density, strength and balance as well as to alleviate arthritis symptoms.

Bishop said she and Mesalands fitness center director Tom Morris decided to call their exercise program “Strong Seniors Stay Young” to encourage both men and women to attend classes. In addition to the original state funding, the state health department provided weights for the program. Local Elks Club and Altrusa chapters donated funds for additional weights, and Mesalands provides equipment and a workout facility. The class costs seniors $20.

Tressie Curtis said she and her mother Margie Peacock have participated in two previous strong seniors programs that took place over the winter and summer. Curtis said she convinced her mom to attend the workout sessions and their vitality has benefitted as a result.

“It helps us to just be stronger. It helps our knees, our hips, our backs. It makes it easier for us to do what we have to do. My mom lives alone and this is helping her remain independent,” Curtis said.

Peacock said she moved to Tucumcari from the Ruidoso area more than three years ago when her husband’s health started to decline. She lives alone now but keeps her children and her household dog company. She said she enjoys her morning workouts.

“Well, as my daughter told you, I live alone and (the strong seniors class) makes me get up and do some things that ordinarily I wouldn’t. I’m 87 so I tend to be lazy,” Peacock said. “It’s encouraging. I enjoy the fellowship with these people when they’re coming in.”

Peacock advised her fellow seniors to follow suit.

“Just get up and get busy, that’s what they need to do. As we get older we tend to kind of sit down and let people get things for us, and that makes old age hurt,” Peacock said.