By Noelle Merrill, Eastern Area Agency on Aging
Sometimes fitness opportunities just pop up when you least expect them to. Such is the case of the Stockton Springs women over 40 volleyball night. One of our community members got stranded on Isle au Haut recently because of poor weather and was invited to play volleyball with a group of older women including at least one octogenarian. She had the brilliant idea that perhaps our town could enjoy this game and it turns out she was right. We are able to field a full court plus some.
Community school gym facilities have long been adopted by younger groups to play various sports, but they work just as well for older people. A few years ago Eastern Area Agency on Aging sponsored forums for the Blaine House Conference on Aging around our region. One of the things we heard was that older people want to use community school facilities for exercise. I don’t think it is understood that often schools are open at night and are available for use. I can envision all those senior strollers who can’t easily walk outdoors in the winter, coordinating with a school for a couple of nights of school hall walking or if there is an indoor track, indoor track exercise or team sports in the gym.
Our aging volleyball activity isn’t your school-variety game. First of all, we all had to put our glasses on to read the rules. Then we had to practice serving and getting the 40 percent lighter than regulation ball over the net. This took a while. Then we moved on to trying to volley the ball, which is apparently the whole point of the game. Someday this will come naturally to us. Gone are the team selection processes where some are left behind. Gone is the referee whistling infractions. There are a few who may have suffered broken manicured nails, but oh well.
Some of us may buy mouth guards to protect our frontal dental work. Some are handicapped because they cannot wear their glasses during play. On the plus side, perhaps we may have to invest in some good-looking outfits in case we get an audience, but we have banned bikinis. Now that I think about it, we didn’t sign a release, but nonetheless, we had a blast.
I recommend you think about starting a senior team activity in your town. You would be surprised how many people show up and how much fun it is. By the end of the first evening, we pretty much knew everyone’s name and all of us were excited about next time. Trust me, if Isle au Haut and Stockton Springs can do it, so can your community. Fitness for older people — it could easily be back to school for fitness.
Noelle Merrill is the executive director of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Bangor.