A free program that helps Fort Smith seniors get active has been highlighted as a “bright spot” in the Northwest Territories - but don’t call it yoga.
The functional living program, co-founded and run by Jeri Miltenberger was recognized at the 2015 Elders in Motion training gathering in Yellowknife last week as a “bright spot” in the NWT. The weekly strength, flexibility and balance exercise classes for seniors have taken place Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. at the recreation centre for two years.
“I teach yoga and people come to the classes and try it, but a fairly significant portion of yoga exercises are on the floor,” she said. “Older adults find it difficult to get up and down, or are still uncomfortable with something called ‘yoga.’ With these exercises, most are in a sitting position but the chair can be used as a tool too.”
The program is supported by the GNWT’s Active Living program with some funding from the NWT Recreation and Parks Association and plenty of local in-kind contributions. Many participants are referred by healthcare professionals and others in town who have frequent contact with seniors.
“No one ever feels like they have to do anything,” Miltenberger said. “We take into account people’s abilities and restrictions as we’re planning and modify the program. We’re not going to solve every issue everyone has, but we provide movement and a safe environment for them.”
The group also holds a monthly seniors’ day at the recreation centre featuring a healthy lunch planned by a dietician. Recipes are shared.
The program was recognized in part because it has caught on so quickly.
“It has been rapidly accepted and well-received,” Miltenberger said. “I’d like to see it grow even more.”
She said it was interesting to hear the comments of attendees at the Yellowknife event after her presentation.
Held at the Explorer Hotel, the conference also included sessions on functional independence and active living, falls prevention and activity sessions on the land at nearby Rotary Park.
“It’s something other communities should look at making sure someone attends, gets the information and brings it back,” Miltenberger said.
Also recognized at the gathering, was “Active Elder” Alan Joss from Uluhaktok, as one of the “inspirational Elders who are active, lead traditional activities and are role models in their community.”