Organizations provide means for seniors to stay active and avoid isolation

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Every day around southwest Ohio, hundreds of people head out to spend time with friends. Maybe they play pickleball, enjoy a yoga class, go out to eat or to see a movie.

Would it surprise you that these active people are senior adults?

Local organizations work to provide health and wellness programs for senior adults. From coordinating fitness classes, games, movie nights and field trips, to educational sessions about nutrition, crafting and even social services, program leaders know the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, no matter one’s age.

How important is it for seniors to stay active as they age? The National Institute of Health reports that increased physical activity reduces blood pressure, the risk for stroke, diabetes and even the onset of dementia.

When they are ready to get out and get active, local senior citizens want a variety of options to enjoy, according to a number of program coordinators.

“They’re looking to be challenged,” said Sabrina Jewell, Outreach and Marketing Coordinator at Oxford Senior. “Our exercise programming has grown instrumentally since we brough it back from COVID.”

The Oxford Senior community center has a little over 500 members and about 222 people regularly attend daily fitness and recreation activities, including a robust exercise class that meets three days a week and run by Miami University students studying health and kinesilogy. The community center also has chair yoga, woodworking classes, Euchre games, stained glass classes and much more.

City of Dayton Recreation Program Coordinator Tiffany Doakes also spoke about how the senior population wants more variety in their activities.

“I’ve noticed an increasing interest in a variety of activities for seniors,” Doakes said. “While fitness remains popular at our rec. centers […] wellness and educational programs covering topics such as nutrition, stress management, and preventative health measures are becoming increasingly popular and well-received.”

The City of of Dayton Recreation Program’s indoor pickleball courts, SilverSneakers fitness classes and aquatic zumba classes are always packed. And, there is a dedicated room for seniors that welcomes visitors with coffee, television and billiards.

In Butler County, the Great Miami YMCA, with 7 locations around the county, has a wide range of fitness and wellness programming available for members. Some classes are especially designed for people ages 55 and over, but many of the fitness classes are open to everyone, according to Association Wellness Director Anna Flanagan.

“Instructors in many of our classes adapt the exercises for different ability levels, in addition to the classes more traditionally designed for seniors” Flanagan said.

Flanagan pointed out that this flexibility in class style intends to help people overcome anxiety in trying out a new class or fitness program.

Often, this anxiety is one factor that gets in the way of people engaging in an active lifestyle, along with one of the biggest obstacles faced by older adults: isolation.

The U.S. Surgeon General recently identified isolation as an “epidemic” with senior citizens in the bullseye of highest risk. As a result of this separation from others and lack of community connection, a person’s mental and physical health can be negatively impacted.

But, breaking the cycle of loneliness and isolation hasn’t been easy, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flanagan said it has taken a couple of years for people, including senior citizens, to start to return to classes and programming. That trend is shifting over the past year, though. And, as more people come back to check out what’s available, they are building onto the programming already offered.

“They build communities within the classes,” Flanagan explained. “They get to know each other, look for each other and ways to connect. It may be getting together for lunch after class or doing other activities together.”

Over at Oxford Seniors, Jewell said she sees the same trend.

“They stay [after class], they have coffee and eat donuts,” she said. “They stay and talk. And then I hear them making plans to go for a walk later. It’s the combination of getting that physical activity and that social connection.”

Doakes said demand for social engagement activities continues to climb among senior participants. The connection between the physical and social elements of wellness programming will continue to influence future event planning.

“We actively seek input from the community for suggestions on program, events, or activities,” she said. Community members can make suggestions via email at

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