Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Center provides growing group with own classes

By Lindsay Whitehurst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jeanne Bokenkotter of Mason stretches during a Forever Fit class Friday at the Mason Community Center.
Photo by MEGGAN BOOKER/The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - Ginny Lane, 74, is a frequent volleyball player and swimmer. She might be neither without Mason's Bridge Senior Center, where she goes at least five days a week.

"Without the Bridge center, I really don't know what I would be doing," she said. "Nothing, I'd imagine."

The Bridge center is housed in the year-old, 158,300-square-foot Mason Community Center and is open to members 55 years and older.

According to 2000 Census data, the number of Warren County residents over 65 is approaching 10 percent and more than 20 percent of county residents are ages 45-64.

Local officials say those numbers will increase quickly as baby boomers age.

"We're poised at the edge of something very big," said Joanne Westwood, supervisor of the Bridge center in the fast-growing county.

The Active for Life program, which began this month at the center and at nine other locations in Warren, Butler and Hamilton counties, is designed to help older adults incorporate exercise into their everyday lives.

The 21-week course, which meets once a week for an hour, helps seniors set goals and overcome obstacles to staying active.

"Older people are showing even better benefits from exercise than people who are younger," said Alisa Phillips, associate planner for the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio.

She also said many short exercise sessions over the course of a day are just as effective as one long exercise routine.

"Exercise doesn't have to be strenuous or time-consuming," Phillips said.

In addition to a variety of daily activities available at the Bridge center, the community center's general fitness area, swimming pools, weight room and gymnasium have been a boon to local seniors.

Continuing education opportunities for senior citizens have also been in big demand, so starting April 12 the Bridge center will team up with University of Cincinnati's Institute for Learning in Retirement to offer classes on current events, beginning Spanish, movie musicals and photography.

The classes "help us keep our brains working, keeps us active and thinking," said Mason resident Pat Ledford, 67.

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