Senior center programs keep elders fit, active

The sign on a Homer Senior Center wall indicates the location of “Strong Women.” Follow the arrow and that’s exactly what you’ll find: a group of women meeting three times a week to improve their health through the “Strong Women” program.

Developed by Dr. Miriam Nelson and her colleagues at Tufts University as a way to increase bone density in older adults, the strength-training curriculum helps maintain muscle mass, strength and function for women age 50 and older. 

It came to Homer in 2012 through a collaborative effort involving Homer Senior Citizens Inc. and South Peninsula Hospital. 

The class meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 2-3 p.m. In addition to being a registered nurse and massage therapist, Rowan Mulvey has been trained to teach the Strong Women program, as have Tonda Allred and Brenda Dolma. Cost to take the class is $3 for Homer Senior Citizens Inc. members and $6 for nonmembers.

The number of participants varies. Some days there are as many as 18 women; other days just a handful.

Other wellness programs offered by Homer Senior Citizens include: 

• Zumba Gold, taught by Maria Santa Lucia and Mulvey; 11 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays and 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Thursdays; $4 members and $6 nonmembers;

• Tai Chi, taught by Mulvey; 3-4 p.m. Thursdays; $3 members and $6 nonmembers.

Homer Senior Citizens began offering Tai Chi about 10 years ago. The Zumba Gold, a less intense version of the dance-based aerobic fitness program Zumba, is the most recent to begin. Payment can be made by class or with a punch card. 

“These are extremely important for a large segment of Homer’s population, and I would like to find a way to let more people know more about what is offered,” said Lani Raymond, who attends all three classes. “It also would be helpful to let people know that these programs are appropriate for a wide range of abilities.” 

Looking around the Strong Women class, it’s easy to see what Raymond means. When it comes to leg raises, some in the class use ankle weights and some don’t. When it comes to doing arm curls, weights of various sizes are used or no weights at all. Some in the class participate by standing, while others stay seated. 

Mulvey easily adapts the classes to fit any limitations an individual might have. In addition to her many certifications, Mulvey’s areas of concentration include arthritis, injury recovery and limited range of motion.

A fourth class, “Fun and Fitness,” meant mainly for residents of Homer Senior Citizens housing, is done with everyone sitting on chairs. For that, Mulvey uses chairs with upholstered seats.

Don’t get the idea these classes are easy. The looks of concentration on the faces of Strong Women participants make it clear they are hard at work.

“Some people, I fear, think (the classes) would be too easy because they are at the Senior Center, and yet others might think they were too hard if they themselves have some physical limitations,” said Raymond. “Actually people with a very wide range of abilities come and benefit from these programs.  The instructors are excellent, and while some participants are physically fit, there is always the option of doing modified activities, but everyone benefits and enjoys the classes.”

The Strong Women class is composed of exactly as the name makes clear: women. It’s the only course offered by Homer Senior Citizens that is strictly for females. The others classes are open to men and women.

Another program in the planning stages is an aquatics class that will be held at the Bay Club pool, according to Mulvey.

“We seniors are very fortunate to have this center and to have the fitness opportunities we do,” said Raymond. “I don’t think you can emphasize too much keeping active. And not just for older people.”

Daniel Weisser, Homer Senior Citizens activities director, said the center is “constantly trying to find opportunities for the public.” In addition to the wellness classes, dinners and dances are frequently held.

Weisser recommended anyone interested in enrolling in the offerings should call for more details at 235-7655.

“Some of the exercises need a doctor’s consent and some of the exercises may be too much for a person,” said Weisser. “It’s always good to call first.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at

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