Gymnastics for Every Age

Lorna Watkins, an 82-year-old resident at The Waterford­, was hesitant when she first learned about the gymnastics class offered for seniors in South Delta. She was also intrigued. Six months later, gymnastics played a significant role in a quick recovery from an immobilizing injury.

In spring 2018, residents from The Waterford and The Wexford participated in a trial run of the ‘Seniors Can Move’ program developed by Delta Gymnastics Society to teach seniors the ABC’S of sport—agility, balance, coordination, and strength.

Aging impacts bone density, muscle tone and balance. With that in mind Delta Gymnastics coaches and staff applied for a New Horizons grant from the federal government to create a program to meet the changing needs of seniors and benefit their overall functional fitness.

While gymnastics might not seem an obvious choice for older adults, they gain therapeutic benefits by learning safe falling, enhance their flexibility, and experiment with new equipment and exercises—such as a three inch spring floor. (More on that later!)

“This program gives our residents the freedom to walk with confidence,” notes Brenda Hodson, Recreation Manager at The Waterford “They build core strength, they work on fall prevention, and they feel good about themselves!”

Lorna experienced all the benefits—and more. In September, while at home, she broke her ankle in what she refers to as a ‘silly accident’. She was determined not to let the injury keep her from participating in the weekly gymnastics program she was enjoying so much.

Nine days later, she rolled her wheelchair onto the springy floor of the Delta Gymnastics facility ready for class to begin. “The next week I went on a walker,” she recalls with a smile. “The week after that I went with a cane. The last week, I went with no splint, no boot, no cane!” Coaches and staff were delighted with her progress and particularly enjoyed watching her bounce across the trampoline in her air cast, laughing all the way. They weren’t the only ones who were impressed.

Lorna’s ankle healed more quickly than expected. “The physiotherapist told me that the exercises I had been doing had strengthened and toned my muscles—that was why I healed so fast,” says Lorna proudly.

“Gymnastics is a foundational sport,” says Richard Woo, Developmental Program Coordinator for Delta Gymnastics Society. “It teaches us to protect and coordinate our bodies in all types of situations. It creates strength, courage and confidence to do new things­—and the benefits are the same whether you’re two or 82.”

Lorna has become an unofficial spokesperson for the gymnastics program that had such a powerful impact on her. “I would love to see it offered to more seniors here and across Canada,” she says. “It’s been so wonderful for me, and I think it would be wonderful for others too.”

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