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Currents: play sports, be well

It's Good to Get Going: Community Members Motivated to Move at Sport & Wellness Festival

On March 29, a group of nearly 30 seniors ages 65 to 90 from the New London area gathered at the Dan & Kathleen Hogan Sports Center to take part in the Sport & Wellness Festival. The event was the class project for Sport Management 428, a class required for senior sport management majors in Exercise and Sport Sciences.

Those who braved the cold rain that canceled some reservations – and a planned hike around campus – enjoyed an afternoon of beanbag toss, yoga and aerobics demonstrations, fitness training sessions using Wii, games to help stay active, health handouts and free blood pressure tests offered by nursing students, and information on Adventures in Learning, a lifelong learning program sponsored by the college. The COA's Chapin Senior Center in New London had a booth providing information on its 40 programs, and the Kearsarge Cooperative Grocer offered soap samples, recipes and nutrition tips.

Amy Hebert '10 says the idea for the sports and wellness festival came about through conversations between Greg Austin, associate professor of Exercise and Sport Sciences, and Nancy Friese, executive director of the COA's Chapin Senior Center. When Professor Austin proposed the idea to the class and asked if they were interested, Hebert says they “ran with it.”

“Students had to secure a facility, develop a relationship with Council on Aging (COA) Chapin Senior Center, and execute an event management plan,” says Professor Austin. “We hope the attendees enjoy their brief experience with us and to develop this event into an annual festival.”

Older Adults: Just Do It

Mary Demers of Andover certainly enjoyed her afternoon at Hogan.

“When I was young I used to play softball, and then I taught softball for years at my daughters' school,” said the Andover resident, speaking of days long past. “Neither of my daughters can play – I mean, I was good, and they couldn't even hit the ball.”

Demers was shopping at Hubert's when she saw a flier advertising the free sport and wellness festival.

“What a beautiful place this college is, what a beautiful campus,” Demers says, proud of having sunk two bags in the beanbag toss and waiting for an aerobics demonstration to begin. “I've been to yoga classes here at Hogan a few times, and I'm going to continue. I have arthritis of the spine - that's why I limp - but after I get going I don't limp, so it's good to get going.

"My doctor gave me pills to kill the pain but they don't, and he said it is great I'm going to yoga. I've done enough for today, and it's been wonderful, but it's time to go see my husband at the Clough Extended Care Center.”

The COA's Friese was pleased with the way the day turned out. "The students did a good job putting this together,” she says. “I worked with Greg on a couple projects this winter with the students coming to the center to teach Wii, and all of them have been great with the seniors. I think it's just great to get the students to meet some of the seniors and to get the seniors up to campus; it's been a good day.”

Student Ben Dabush learned a new phrase when a woman proclaimed she wanted to get rid of her “bat arms.” He was then surprised when she was able to lift an iron bar over her head 12 times. “That's pretty heavy; I was impressed she could do that,” he said.

“You never know what people used to do,” says Professor Austin. “They all have stories, and they used to do more. This is a funny age group, a lot of times they just don't see themselves as active anymore and it's a shame because they should be - they need to be – active, and I think there's a barrier there.”

Breaking down that barrier was one of the goals the students worked toward all semester by providing instruction at the COA center for the Wii bowling program; now COA offers the program to area seniors on a weekly basis. Surveys after the festival indicate that the majority of attendees believe they lead physically active lifestyles and are healthy; participate in sports on a regular basis and live life to its fullest, and that the Kearsarge area offers many sport and wellness activities to older adults.

“My big hope for the day is that people have fun, learn something, have a healthy snack, get tips on wellness and try new things,” says Hebert. “For the most part they're well educated on nutrition and activity but balance and strength are issues for this age group. I was at the aerobics station and they were eager to learn about strength and balance exercises, so this festival will definitely help them.”

Irene Nelson shared what she learned as she readied her umbrella against the rain still coming down. “I learned deep breathing exercises, to breathe deeply from the abdomen. I shallow breathe and don't deep breathe. This was great, now I can go home and practice.”

Lessons learned and practiced at home? Mission accomplished, Sports Management 428.

-Kate Seamans