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VOL. 10 | NO. 13 | Saturday, March 25, 2017

From Art to Zumba, Memphis Seniors Taking Steps to Keep Mind & Body Fit

By Michael Waddell

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For people like Bill Wilson, 74, keeping active mentally as well as physically is the key to a healthier life.

Ginny Dunn conducts two morning Zumba classes at the Bartlett Senior Center, which touts more than 1,800 active members. The center offers exercise and dance lessons, plus language classes and a range of other activities.

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

“The more active you stay, the happier you are going to be, the better you will feel, and probably the longer you will live and enjoy doing it,” said Wilson. “I have a stationary bike in the house and ride it every day. I can testify that I do feel better when I exercise. I try to stay as active as I can, but, you know, age and arthritis catch up with you.”

The Memphis area boasts plenty of programs geared specifically for the 50-and-older demographic, including a wide range of community gatherings, senior recreational centers and age-restricted communities that feature fun and engaging activities.

Wilson, a former teacher at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, is retired but stays busy as an amateur astronomer and genealogist, as a volunteer at WYPL radio and WKNO-TV, and as a volunteer and docent at Shelby Farms Park, which offers its Wise Trek program for the 50-plus crowd.

“We started the program about three years ago, and it’s been really popular,” said Natalie Wilson, Shelby Farms’ senior manager of visitor experience. “One of things that is critical for us is to be able to engage all of those who use and enjoy the natural resources of the park.”

Trekkers can ride their bikes on the Shelby Farms Greenline, take part in a gardening workshop, go horseback riding or play a round of disc golf.

“Our Wise Trek program focuses on socialization, health and wellness, engagement and environmental education,” said Wilson. “We have opportunities that encompass every piece of Shelby Farms Park’s mission.”

The program’s book club kicks off its third year in April, and trekkers can also enjoy activities such as board game meetups; nature hikes; free fitness classes, including tai chi and strength and balance; field trips; and Arts in the Park, with a weekly environmental sketching class.

“For field trips, we do walking tours, classroom tours, and bus tours where our interpretive docent or educator gets on the bus with the groups and takes them around the park,” Wilson said.

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy works to establish relationships with local community centers and churches to set up tours for senior groups.

Some tours led by Bill Wilson might even include the story of a broken gravestone from the late 1800s on the Tour de Wolf trail along the east end of the park. He traced the genealogy of the names of husband and wife listed there to find out their story.

Another inexpensive and easy way to stay active and social is to join a community center, such as the Bartlett Senior Center located across from Bartlett High School. Anyone 50 or older is eligible to participate in the center’s wide-ranging activities.

“Our exercise classes are very popular,” said Holly Salmon, activities coordinator at the center, which touts more than 1,800 active members. “We have Zumba and stretch classes, tai chi and yoga, as well as dance lessons for ballroom and line dancing.”

For keeping mentally fit, many of the center’s members also come in to play board games such as chess, Scrabble and dominoes, and some take language classes to learn Spanish or French. Adult coloring books and sewing also have become popular options in the past few years.

“On Mondays and Fridays, we even have a group that gets together and plays instruments and sings,” said Salmon. “This spring, we will also start our fishing club back up.”

Amenities at the center include a computer lab with internet access; free Wi-Fi; billiards tables; a library/book exchange; cable TV; and an exercise room with treadmills, ellipticals and weights. MIFA donates lunch to the center every weekday.

Many classes are free with an annual $15 membership, while some have a small additional cost.

Age-restricted living communities are also offering resident more ways to keep active. Brookdale Dogwood Creek in Germantown is home to 195 residents over age 55 and provides independent living, assisted living and memory care services.

“We have activities going on in every single area of the building,” said Angela Bowden, Brookdale Dogwood Creek executive director, who notes that the facility has several residents who are older than 100.

Amenities at the community include an indoor swimming pool, hot tub/spa, gym, movie theater, garden, woodworking shop, library and putting green, plus activities such as art classes, ballroom dancing and even a happy hour throughout the week.

“Our dedicated memory care unit called Clairbridge also gives residents the chance to enjoy activities like flower arranging, bingo, crafts and special outings,” Bowden said.

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