Community elders keep young through department exercise program

    Participants in the Center for Healthy Aging exercise program stay healthy in the University Recreation Center. The program is sponsored by the nursing and kinesiology departments. Photo by Austin Bowler

    Former TCU staff member Roberta Corder has found her way back to TCU through the doors of the University Recreation Center.

    Sporting a pink T-shirt and gray leggings, Corder, 68, was all smiles after a workout session.

    “It’s good for me,” Corder said, holding a large exercise ball. “Otherwise, I get lazy and stay in bed.”

    Corder is a participant in a new exercise program for older adults developed by the Center for Healthy Aging, within the Harris School of Nursing and Health Sciences, in partnership with the kinesiology and nursing departments.

    Linda Curry, executive director of the Center for Healthy Aging, said the primary goal of the program is to offer resources for older adults.

    “Older workers are not retiring, and they don’t have to,” Curry said. “Exercise and engagement with others keeps people young.”

    According to 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, seniors – adults age 65 and up – make up 9.6 percent of Fort Worth’s population.

    Carol Pope, adviser for the Center for Healthy Aging and associate professor of kinesiology, said the exercise program focuses on activities that improve balance, strength, flexibility, endurance and cardiovascular health. Pope said she became interested in developing an exercise program after learning of research conducted by another kinesiology professor.

    Melody Phillips, an assistant professor of kinesiology, specifically researched the impact of resistance training on older women.

    Phillips, a member of the Center for Healthy Aging Research Committee, said many of the women she studied noted an increased ability to perform daily tasks after exercising. Phillips said among the participants was a woman who went to the salon three times a week because she couldn’t do her hair herself, which changed after she began exercising.

    “She only went to the beauty salon when she wanted to,” Phillips said. “That was because she now has the ability to hold her arms above her head for a longer period of time.”

    After Phillip’s original research project ended, participants expressed interest in continuing with the exercise program. Participants from the original program and newcomers now meet on a weekly basis at the rec center, she said.

    Cynthia Bird, the exercise program’s instructor, said she uses a variety of techniques to engage participants, including playing music from their generation.

    “They are so dedicated,” she said.

    Participants in the exercise program must be at least 60 years old and are required to be cleared by their doctor before enrolling, which costs $200 per semester. The enrollment fee is $120 for participants who are already members of the University Recreation Center. Only 20 participants are allowed per semester.

    Under the Center for Healthy Aging, the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences created a new interdisciplinary healthy aging minor. The minor requires students to take Sociology of Aging, Interdisciplinary Approaches to Healthy Aging and a directed studies course. In addition to these courses, students must take nine hours of classes within the departments.

    Like the exercise program, the goal of the minor is to improve the quality of life for older adults, Curry said.

    “We need to recognize that the majority of people visiting the hospital are older. That’s what makes this minor so important,” Curry said.