Cedarville Elderly Find Fountain of Youth

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

    It’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. But for a group of Cedarville-area residents, being young is all a matter of perspective.

    They’re called the Senior Jackets—a gathering of elderly men and women for exercise and fellowship. Each Tuesday and Thursday, these seniors arrive at the Cedarville Fitness Center, ready to work their bodies, refresh their spirits, and strengthen their hearts—literally and figuratively.

    Dr. Dee Morris, adjunct instructor of exercise and sport science, recognizes just how important this program is to the physical and emotional well-being of the participants. “Exercise benefits physically but it also has—particularly for this age group—tremendous psychological benefits. When you feel strong, when you are active, it really changes your outlook on life, makes you more positive. You have a sense of being equal to challenges,” she says. “Psychologists call it self-efficacy.”

    Certainly people recognize the signs of aging—running out of breath sooner, more pain and less stamina. Add to that the loss of loved ones and a greater degree of isolation, and the elderly may become withdrawn, lacking the inclination and motivation to pursue a healthy, active lifestyle.

    That’s what happened to Kitty Vine. Following hip and knee replacement, the 84-year-old great-grandmother wasn’t recovering sufficiently and her doctor ordered exercise. “But I didn’t have much luck working out at home,” she says, then laughs. “No discipline.”

    So, she approached her friend, Dee Morris, knowing that Cedarville’s new fitness center had the equipment she needed. Morris showed her how to use the machines, and got her started on a program. Vine subsequently invited a few friends, who invited a few more … and Senior Jackets was born.

    Several Cedarville students help the seniors with their exercises, assisting Morris, who works out the individual routines. One of the students is senior Mary Stockdale, who’s majoring in exercise science. She says, “This program is bettering the quality of life of these men and women. Getting old is not what it used to be in a world where exercise and a healthy lifestyle now exist.”

    Stockdale hopes to pursue a master’s in anatomy, education or exercise science. “I believe it’s important to be extremely well-rounded in this field as far as working with different people groups, such as the young, old or diseased,” she says. “Still, as much as I try to encourage them through exercise, they end up encouraging me even more.”

    Morris has witnessed what the students gain by being a part of the program—life experience and wisdom top the list. And the seniors, in return, enjoy being around the young people. “It’s a good interchange,” Morris says.

    Retired pastor Marv Troyer serves as the social hub of the group—bringing coffee and leading the fellowship time. “Dee asked me to come to be an encouragement,” he says. “Instead of just working out and going home, folks take the time to sit and visit.”

    On this particular day, participants are planning a birthday celebration for one of the regulars, engaging in a friendly discussion of who will bring the cake.

    “I come for the camaraderie,” says participant Keith Manor with a chuckle. “And in the meantime, I do a couple of exercises.”