Senior Energize program going strong 30 years later

Becky Vargo • Feb 19, 2018 at 2:00 PM

SPRING LAKE — An exercise program started 30 years ago in Spring Lake is still going strong despite the hospital that originally coordinated the classes bowing out many years ago.

And one of the Senior Energize class’ original members is still a regular at the three-times-a-week program held at Spring Lake Presbyterian Church.

“I’ve always done exercise,” said 89-year-old Betty Gleason as she stretched an elastic band over her head.”

She continues to join in the activity because, she said, “I just like to come and have fun talking.”

Gleason said she walks over from her apartment at nearby Liberty Woods. And she walks, outside if possible, every day.

One chair away, Judy Fuller leads the class through an hour of stretches and deep breathing.

“I’ve been involved for 15 years and leading it for five,” said the “almost 80-year-old” Nunica resident.

“Everybody can lead,” Fuller said. “You just read the paper and do it.”

Fuller said they use the same program of exercises developed by Mercy Hospital back in 1988.

“We do half sitting and half standing. All 640 muscles are stretched,” Fuller said.

The exercise leader said she knows they are doing things right for a couple of reasons. 

One, her daughter, a physical therapist, has reviewed the program, Fuller said.

“She said, ‘This is wonderful, Mom. You’re stretching your eyes and everything,’” Fuller said.

And two, it works.

“I’m really more like 60,” Fuller said. “It just keeps you active. You have good balance and everything.”

Fuller said her husband comes to the class and he doesn’t have a lot of mobility.

“You come and do what you can,” she said. “We gather. We exercise, have fun and go home.”

Grand Haven resident Sherran Esh said she has been attending the class for three years.

“A lot of us have had surgery and we recover very fast,” Esh said.

She claimed her regular participation in the class allowed her to be up and walking (with a walker) the day after she had a hip replacement.

The class is also great for learning about books and movies.

“We network,” Esh laughed as fellow participant Janet Joiner reeled off a joke she recently heard.

Fuller said the class is a very loosely structured gathering with no registration or sign-in. People just show up and join in. On a recent Wednesday, 16 people participated in the exercises.

“There’s a lot of snowbirds gone right now,” Fuller said.

There’s no actual fee for the class, just a suggested donation.

“We put a dollar in each time. At the end of the month, we give it to the church,” she said. The church determines how to use the funds.

Although there were classes in other communities, too, those are no longer active, Fuller said. So attendees — ages 60s, 70s, mostly 80s and some 90s — come from Grand Haven, Ferrysburg, Fruitport, Spring Lake, Nunica and some from Muskegon. 

“It’s a great program,” Fuller said. “We just keep doing it.”

Classes are held at 10:15 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Spring Lake Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall. Entry is at the back of the church, which is located at 760 E. Savidge St.

“Everyone is welcome,” Fuller said.

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