Taking a break after chair yoga class, Don is relaxed with his sneakers kicked off, chatting about the physical impacts of aging. He quotes from a Leonard Cohen song.
“You start to ache in the places you used to play,” he says with a smile.
At 88, Don has led a rich life. He began teaching school at 16, shortly after the Second World War, sharing knowledge with elementary and high school kids from Hope to 100 Mile House. He’s been married to his wife Joyce for 62 years and they have eight grandchildren.
Don loves playing the ukulele and jamming with friends, but until recently, he was struggling to keep up.
“I’ve got a condition which effects the nerves in my feet and balance can be a real problem.”
From stiff to agile, Don is moving and thriving
That’s when Don heard about chair yoga provided by Mission Community Services and supported by United Way donors through the Seniors Active Aging program.
Made possible through a partnership with the Ministry of Health and the UBC AART team, this program is free for local seniors.
“I find it’s done a great deal for my balance and flexibility,” he says. “It’s relaxing too.”
Don notes that aging can sometimes mean a reduction in physical activity so he’s doing his best to keep moving. “It’s so easy to sit around and get stiff and old.” Regular workouts at the centre have improved his balance, critical in preventing catastrophic falls among seniors.
This improved balance not only alleviates the fear of falling. It’s given Don more freedom to practice ukulele, a practice he started as a teacher.
“I have a serious music addiction,” he jokes, adding he’ll be sticking around after yoga class for a musical jam session with other seniors from the neighbourhood.
Seniors getting together improves quality of life
Don is in good company. Seniors who reside in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and are engaged with community-based programs show a higher level of satisfaction with their quality of life and social interaction than those who do not, according to a 2019 poll by Insights West conducted in partnership with the United Way of the Lower Mainland.
Bringing folks together and ensuring they experience meaningful connections continues to be possible, thanks to people like you that support these vital programs.
Donors create big impact
“Without this funding, I don’t believe we’d be able to provide a program this robust,” says Raman Narang, Program Coordinator, Social Prescribing with Mission Community Services Society.
“Thank you for allowing seniors to be active,” she says.
Raman says another local senior with COPD approached her following a chair yoga class, excited to report she no longer requires her puffer or asthma machine. “The chair yoga class has helped her immensely with her breathing.” Raman says.
As his friends snack on donuts and share stories before heading to a nearby room for their jam session, Don says he’ll be back again next week to practice his cat cows and extended side stretches. “I have a really great time doing it.”
Curious about other free programs in Mission? Check out the Repair café.
Active Aging programs are supported in partnership between the Active Aging Research Team, United Way of the Lower Mainland and British Columbia’s Ministry of Health.