Senior wellness program growing in virtual form
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Since late last year, the senior wellness program at Old Town Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs has provided residents 60 and older with light workouts and knowledge to stay fit and active as they age. Program leader Darrel Levingston didn’t want that to stop when the facility closed due to COVID-19.
So, using a Facebook Group, Levingston and his colleagues have continued to serve Steamboat’s senior community through free videos featuring daily exercises and weekly guest speakers.
With seniors being a vulnerable demographic during the COVID-19 outbreak, Levingston thinks it’s more important than ever to educate them on various ways to stay healthy.
“One of the biggest challenges for the senior population is movement, to keep moving every day,” Levingston said. “Now, with social isolation, it’s becoming a little more challenging for everybody, but especially for the senior population. We are going to have a higher mortality rate, if you do contract this virus. Getting out, going for walks and exercising has become more challenging.”
The class can be accessed via the Old Town Hot Springs Facebook page. On the left hand side, there is a tab called groups, one of which is the OTHS Senior Tempo Group. It’s a closed group, but access is granted fairly quickly.
Daily exercises, taught by fitness instructor Jolene Bracy, are posted every weekday morning. There are also guest speakers at 10:30 a.m. every Tuesday. Last Tuesday, the speaker was April Sigman, executive director of the Routt County Council on Aging, and Jean Labaree did a demonstration on core and balance.
“Jean is pretty amazing,” Levingston said. “I believe she’s in her mid-70s, and she’s been teaching group classes at the Hot Springs since 1983. Most seniors that take her class all say the same thing, ‘Man, she’s 20 years older than me, and I cannot keep up with her.’ She’s an inspiration to all of us.’”
A virtual class teaching easy, at-home exercises is perfect for a demographic that already spends a lot of time at home.
“This whole stay-at-home thing is nothing new to our age group,” Levingston said. “A lot of our members are retired. What everyone else in the country is experiencing as something new, seniors have been doing this for decades.”
Other than a slight lag in the videos, Levingston said he hasn’t encountered any serious technological snags or troubles.
When the senior wellness program began, the class took place weekly in the community room and was open to everyone, even non-members. It’s since been renamed the Senior Tempo Wellness Program. The first half hour gets people moving with light to moderate exercise, followed by a guest speaker. Speakers have covered everything from mental health to yoga to nutrition.
The in-person format attracted about 30 people each week. The group on Facebook is now 115 strong.
“This whole social isolation and shutting down the Hot Springs was a bit of shock at first,” Levingston said. “For our particular program, we can see now that we’re able to reach a lot more people than we ever could before. The next challenge for us, when we do reopen, how are we going to fit all these people into the community room?”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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The pandemic is wearing on a lot of people, especially frontline health care workers like Whittany Keating, a registered nurse at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.