For generations, the Y has provided a place of wellness and community bonding for Oahu residents from across the island’s economic, social and age groups. In keeping with this tradition, the Y is now making a name for itself among local seniors. With similar activities specifically design for them, the overall experience remains, well … fun!
As a result, more and more seniors have been joining the Y for fun, health and social activity.
“Yes, physical fitness is a key component of the Y’s approach to providing senior services, but that’s only the beginning,” says Michael Broderick, CEO of the YMCA Honolulu. “One of the things I love about the Y is the social and emotional benefits it gives our seniors and how much it means to them to stay healthy, active and involved.”
“When most people think of seniors and the Y, they only think of our healthy living focus,” Broderick says. “But we also have two other focus areas — youth development and social responsibility. Y seniors are able to get involved with the latter two areas because of the inter-generational makeup of Y members.
“Think about it. How many other places can you find 4 year olds learning how to dance hula, folks in their 90s playing bingo, and every age and activity in between — all happening in the same place and at the same time? Our seniors teach our keiki so much, and our keiki bring our seniors much joy. And that exchange is really a neat thing.”
The focus on seniors comes at an opportune time, when the number of Hawai‘i seniors is growing at an unprecedented rate. And the Y is ready! Offering an impressive breadth and depth of senior oriented programs and classes designed specifically to fit the interests, needs and unique abilities of seniors.
Erin Berhman has been the Senior Healthy Lifestyle Director for the Y for the last eight years and part of the organization since 1995. “The underlying idea is to help our seniors build healthy bodies, minds and spirits through an array of fitness and exercise classes, as well as social activities, specialty classes and arts and crafts,” Berhman says. “And it’s not just the number of classes and events that we offer that’s important, but it’s the way in which we’ve made them more senior friendly. That includes making it easier for them to get started through one-on-one orientations and friendly and knowledgeable trainers available on our fitness and exercise machine floors to help them.”
Staying active is not only good for the body —it’s also good for the mind and spirit. Social events, such as potlucks, bingo, bridge, flower arranging, crafts, cooking demos and even hiking, help Y seniors build friendships and ties that last a lifetime.
“I’ve watch smaller groups within the classes form that are very tight knit and become like second families,” she says. “You can literally feel it in the air. When someone doesn’t show up, there is immediate concern among the others.”
Berhman believes much of this camaraderie and compassion begins with the Y’s instructors and staff members.
“Some of our instructors are among the most passionate teachers I have ever seen,” she says. “They love what they do and build a strong connection with their students.”
The gift of the kupuna
Carolee Nishi has been engaged and enamored with her involvement with the Y and community for 45 years. This spritely ku¯puna shares her gifts of aloha in the Hawaiian Studies program at the Nu‘uanu YMCA. Every day, participants from 3 to 85 are learning to dance hula, sing and play the ‘ukulele, as well as Hawaiian language and culture.
Generations of girls and boys have flourished under “Aunty Carolee’s” disciplined and loving guidance. She credits the success to her ku¯puna volunteers and the children in the program.
Like Nishi, George Kam has been volunteering at the Nu‘uanu Y since his retirement in 1986. An avid speed bag (boxing) fan all of his life, he now dedicates three days a week at the Y to teach a “George’s speed bag club” class.
George has trained people of all ages —even a couple in their 80s. Teaching speed boxing is what George says keeps him young. He says it’s a blessing every day — he gets to meet new people, help people with a variety of problems — he never knows who will walk through his door.
Having fun is ageless
Maggie Boloson is a mermaid. You can often find her in the Leeward YMCA pool swimming with other mermaids. But Maggie and her swimming buddies are not your stereotypical movie mermaids. Michael Broderick, president and CEO of YMCA of Honolulu, explains:
“I was at the Leeward Y not long ago and a ‘seasoned’ woman came up to me, and asked who I was. After I identified myself, she gently took my arm and told me with a smile that she was a ‘mermaid’ and wanted me to meet the other mermaids. She then introduced me to three other equally charming ladies.”
“Aunty Maggie,” as the Leeward staff affectionately calls Boloson, went on to tell Broderick that the Y has become a very important part of her life, and that she comes to the Y every day. In fact, Boloson is not only a regular swimmer at the Leeward Y pool, but also participates in a number of the Y programs designed for seniors, including Total Body Conditioning and Zumba Gold. But her real passions are the Leeward Y Group Interaction potlucks and Y Bingo days.
“All of our branches are full of people like Maggie, whose lives are deeply integrated into the fabric of the Y,” Broderick says. “They are living proof that the Y is first and foremost about community.”
Beatrice Kong, 82, of Alewa Heights is a retired public school teacher and administrator who attends tai chi classes at the Nu‘uanu YMCA.
She speaks warmly about tai chi instructor Tom Amina’s passion for teaching, his endless patience, and willingness to volunteer his services not only at the Y but throughout the community.
“Tommy’s such an outstanding instructor who brings out the best in all of us,” Kong says.
“I can’t tell you how much I look forward to his classes. I appreciate all that the Y has to offer.” Beatrice appreciates the relaxing and comfortable environment for meeting old friends as well as making new ones.
She says that tai chi provides her with many health benefits, especially maintaining her flexibility and providing her with endless energy to do all the things she loves. “I live alone but I like my independence. That’s why I need to take care of my health,” Kong says. She says taking tai chi also improves her coordination, posture and balance, and eases her fear of falling — a fear shared by many seniors.
Wally Kawachi used to harbor a different fear. Four years ago, he could barely climb a stair. After heart surgery, his doctor told him to go to a Y and get some exercise. He did, and has been religiously going five days a week to the Kaimuki¯ Y to work on the treadmill and exercise machines. Today, at 91, his kids say he walks like a young man.
Kawachi is just one of 16 active members who are part of Kaimuki¯ Y’s Over 90 Club. They’re living proof that it’s never too late to get fit. You can’t have fun if you’re not fit.
Berhman says that maintaining an active lifestyle is important for people of all ages, but especially for seniors whose health is often susceptible to injuries and illnesses. Regular exercise can boost energy; reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes and even help manage symptoms of chronic illnesses such as Parkinson Disease, arthritis, diabetes or pain.
According to Berhman, Zumba Gold sessions are the Y’s most popular and fastest growing classes. They are followed by tai chi and aqua classes in the Y’s heated pools — all designed with seniors in mind. For example, aqua Zumba, Pilates and tai chi are great fitness alternatives for those with fragile joints.
The Y has also been adding classes under its Chronic Diseases Program. It includes a fitness program for seniors suffering from Parkinson’s Disease that has been offered for the past two years at the Windward Y with great success. Thanks to a $10,000 contribution from the
National Parkinson Foundation–Hawai‘i, the program will be expanded to all eight Oahu YMCA branches as a weekly class by this summer.
Similarly, the Y has started a GlucoFitClub™ to help fight diabetes. The program offers people with diabetes or pre-diabetes a uni-que and fun way to improve their health, track their blood sugar, lose weight and get fit.
GlucoFitClub includes a membership, special fitness classes, one-on-one counseling with a fitness trainer, nutrition classes, a free glucometer, glucose monitoring and discounted glucose strips — all for one monthly fee.
The program is currently offered at the Y’s Leeward, Nu‘uanu and Windward branches. Just three months old, the GlucoFitClub program has already been generating some amazing results. “We have GlucoFitClub members who have dropped their blood sugar rates by a 100 points, have lost weight and feel great—all while having fun and meeting new friends at our GlucoFitClub classes,” says Berhman.
“While some seniors may experience health or chronic disease challenges, it doesn’t mean they can’t stay healthy and fit. With a little creativity, sensitivity and compassion, interesting and satisfying classes are offered at the Y to meet their physical, mental and social needs.”
“There is an ever increasing need to help seniors to not only stay healthy in body, mind and spirit, but to keep them active as an integral part of our ‘ohana and community,” Broderick adds.
“Retiring doesn’t have to mean closing up shop. Rather, it should mean an opportunity to fully enjoy life. We want to provide those with the most knowledge, expertise and experience the chance to use their skills and leadership to help others; and to contribute to society in new, exciting and meaningful ways.
“That is my definition of retirement,” says Broderick, “and that’s what makes it fun … and truly golden.”
Membership Classes & Activities
Membership at the Y offers complete access to all eight YMCA workout facilities on Oahu, including their heated pools and aqua exercise classes.
ACTIVE OLDER ADULT (AOA) FITNESS
Specific to seniors. Classes cover balance, agility, cardio and strength training. Classes are easy on the joints and back, simple to follow and range from low to moderate levels:
Level I & II — From a beginner chair class that utilizes various pieces of equipment to a 45-minute moderate level exercise class.
AQUATICS H2O PROGRAMS (in the pool)
H2O, H2O Arthritis, H2O Pilates — A variety of low-impact pool classes offer both aerobic and strength benefits utilizing aqua bells, noodles and joggers. Classes focus on stretching and core strength, while helping with weight loss, injury recovery and special conditions. (Cover-ups in pool are acceptable.)
Aqua Zumba — Most popular low-impact & high-resistance of water exercise. And definitely fun!
MIND, BODY & SPIRIT
Hatha Yoga — This is a “gentle yoga” with slow transitions, with emphasis on stretching & breathing; improving posture, alignment and balance.
Pilates — Pilates (derived from gymnastics, ballet and yoga) helps with overall strength and posture.
Qi Gong — Qi means energy. It involves coordination of breathing patterns, postures and motions.
Stretch and Relax — Enjoy full body stretches, breathing techniques and restorative poses that help with balance, flexibility and relaxation.
Stretching Classes & Meditation — Transcend to a level where mind and body becomes one.
Tai Chi — Often referred to as “Chinese Yoga” or moving meditation, Tai Chi uses movement to find your inner energy.
Tai Chi/Arthritis, Tai Chi Yoga Flow — Designed for people with arthritis to reduce pain and improve health — a gentler form without the deep bends. Slow moving hands, stepping and body weight transfer and some balancing postures.
Beginning Boxing — Learn true boxing techniques, drills and training with our professional teachers. Gloves and hand wraps are required.
Belly Dancing, Line Dancing, Salsa — From East to West, unleash your creative spirit! Low-impact aerobics, but with a fun twist.
Zumba Gold — Same fun and energy of Zumba (cardio-fusion dance), with more modifications.
YMCA’s GlucoFitClub™ Diabetes Program (Nu‘uanu, Leeward and Windward only) — As a complete package to manage diabetes, the program reduces blood sugar, lowers weight/bmi, body fat and blood pressure. You’ll benefit with a Blood Sugar Tracking Glucometer, glucose test strips, nutrition, diabetes classes and counseling and specially tailored GlucoFit exercise classes.
Parkinson Disease Fitness Classes (Windward) — Specially designed to work on balance and fitness to minimize the effects of the disease.
ADD TO YOUR REPERTOIRE
Each Y branch offers special events and educational programs. Here’s a sample for this spring, April through June. Call your local Y for details.
Life in Balance class • Lunch & Learn Series • Conquering Stress • Bingo & Snack Potluck • Potluck & Lecture • Quick Fits Fitness Assessments • Group Hike • Book of the Month Club • Fall Prevention• Hypertension Explained • Go Get Outside • Health Care Fraud Prevention • Healthy Eating Island Style • Brain Fitness
AFFORDABLE MEMBERSHIP FOR ALL!
- $47 per month first year
- $41 per month second year
Financial Assistance: Sliding scale rate based on income level
Free Membership with Medicare Plan Benefits: AlohaCare, Ohana Health and UnitedHealthcare (selected plans), HMSA (SilverSneakers®), Humana (SilverSneakers®), Kaiser (Silver&Fit®). Please check with your health plan provider for details.