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Success Story > Thorhild Fitness Class: More Than Health Benefits

Thorhild fitness class - women stretchingOlder adults in Thorhild get more than health benefits from their fitness class.

Carol Kassian, Adult Learning and Seniors Coordinator for the County of Thorhild, says that the “beauty of the program is the social interaction” among the participants in the class.

The class has been going for about eight years and has had as many as 20 participants (currently, about 10 people attend the class). Some people bring their spouses to the twice-weekly meetings at the local seniors’ drop-in centre.

Carol says that “It’s been wonderful watching the core group over the last four years. Many of the women are widows the program is very important for them socially.”

Thorhild, Alberta
The project: Thorhild has offered a fitness class for seniors for the last eight years
Population: About 400 in Thorhild and about 3,100 in the County of Thorhild
Main industry: Agriculture
Nearest large towns: 15 minutes away from Redwater and about one hour north of Edmonton

The class organizes potluck lunches once a month and regular coffee and snack get-togethers. As Carol notes, “The social interaction is as important as the physical progress.”

The fitness class grew out of Edmonton Capital Health’s Steady as You Go program. Seniors trained in the Steady as You Go program were the original class leaders.

Several years ago, the current instructor stepped up to teach the class. Carol stresses the importance of finding the right person for the job.

The class instructor has a background in yoga and tai chi. She also has a “sincere and ongoing interest in seniors’ health and fitness. She’s go-to lady, and seniors are dear to her heart.” The instructor also has taken a variety of courses in seniors’ fitness over the years.

“It gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
Participant in the Thorhild Fitness Class.

Carol says the instructor of a class like this needs to have a passion for fitness and to work well with seniors. As “the face of the program,” the fitness class leader “is absolutely key to the class’ success and longevity.”

Although there have been a couple of articles about the class in the local media, the main way people find out about it is through notices posted at the seniors’ drop-in centre.

Many people have also enrolled after seeing notices in Carol’s monthly seniors’ calendar, distributed at the drop-in centre and the local post office and grocery stores. Carol also advertises the program in a booklet she produces for the Adult Learning Council.

The class has received funding through partnerships between the Village of Thorhild, County of Thorhild, Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta, and the Government of Alberta’s Community Adult Learning Program.

"When I go into the garden in spring, I don't even feel it because I have been exercising in the winter."
Participant in the Thorhild Fitness class

Carol cautions that these types of programs are never cost recovery but says that “the benefits outweigh the costs.”

She gives the example of one woman who was forced to give up driving because she couldn’t turn her head enough to shoulder check on the road. Thanks to the class, she can now shoulder check and continues to drive.

As Carol says, “When I look at the social and physical benefits – people staying in their own homes, continuing to drive, visit neighbours and forming new bonds – priceless!”

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