Elbert Memorial Hospital Patient Education
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The power of the 55+ Power Class!

By Lenette Burrell, RN,MSN,EdD

As an introduction, in June 1998 I retired from the Medical College of Georgia School of Nursing in Athens after teaching there for 26 years. When discussing the health of older adults, I strongly emphasized the importance of remaining physically and mentally active. After retiring, the programs and equipment at the Elbert Memorial Hospital Wellness Center were impressive. I joined the aerobics class in September 1998 and have continued to participate in these classes that meet on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30-9:15 AM. At age 80 I give so much credit for my good state of health to these exercises.

NOW-for a background on the "55+ Power Class." On August 13, 2007 my husband Dr. Zeb Burrell (Dr. B) and I were asked to speak to the Methodist Friends Club about aging. Dr. B. decided to stress the importance of maintaining involvement with others. I wanted to emphasize the importance of exercise. Prior to the meeting I asked Kim Bray, Director of the Wellness Center, if I could take some of the equipment to the meeting for a short demonstration and also if we might offer the possibility of having an aerobics class for elders. She said she was available to teach it on Tuesday and Thursday from 2 to 2:30. The class was offered and a few came, then they talked to their friends and more have attended. Kim said some individuals asked if there was an aerobics class that was less strenuous than the ones scheduled in the mornings. She told them about this class, the "55+ Power Class."

The goals of the class are to assist in increasing individuals' strength, balance, and flexibility. We have been living with our bodies for years and know parts that may give us problems. Kim emphasizes for us to do what we can but not to hurt ourselves. We each know when to modify the activities that Kim is leading, but we have also been AMAZED at what we have been able to do that we thought was impossible earlier!!!!

During the 30-minute class, stretching exercises begin and end the class. The activities vary for each class, and each is repeated for a count of 10. Strength is increased by using hand weights or a bar with weights on each end. A chair can be used in various ways while sitting: Lifting weights at various angles and also flexing to the side while holding weights; and straightening the legs and flexing and extending the feet. We can also exercise using the wall under Kim's direction! Balance is "challenged" by standing behind the chair, holding the back, and lifting each leg in various directions for 10 times. We also exercise on the floor on a mat. Many say they have not laid on the floor for years and are skeptical initially, then find they can get down and back up! Weights are used to increase upper body strength and upper body lifts strengthen abdominal muscles. Leg exercises strengthen the lower body. Before we used the large balls, each of us admitted that we did not think we could sit on the ball and balance---but we can---and also while using hand weights!! We can also use the balls while lying on the floor. Small balls are also incorporated in the exercises. With all these activities, flexibility is increased.

The cost for joining the Wellness Center is very reasonable: $25 monthly for seniors (55+) or $60 for 3 months paid in advance. In addition to this class, the member is entitled to join all other classes and use all the equipment.

I asked the group why they joined and these reasons were stated: "Feel better after exercising," "helps with balance," "gets the 'kinks' out," "it's fun," "enjoy seeing our friends," "helps to keep me up and about," "would feel guilty if I didn't come," and "I want to come and see what Kim will have us doing this time!"

As for the ages, we have one in the 50s, three in their 60s, three in their 70s, and seven in their 80s. One of our biggest cheerleaders for this class is age 87!! I am SO PROUD of these perky folks!!!! Now doesn't this sound like YOU might want to join us---if you are old enough??!! If so, talk to Kim at 706-283-6831!!

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