British Columbia

Gymnastics for seniors promotes balance and flexibility instead of back flips

Free gymnastics classes for people over 65 in Vancouver are helping seniors improve their balance and coordination as they age.

A free Vancouver program helps people over 65 stay limber

Up to 16 seniors can participate for free in gymnastics classes offered by Pheonix Gymnastics in Vancouver, B.C., designed specifically for people over age 65. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Eleanor Grant has two grandchildren under the age of two and she wants to be able to keep up with them — so she decided to take up gymnastics at age 77.

Grant is participating in a new gymnastics program for seniors offered by Vancouver Phoenix Gymnastics. The classes, provided for free, are not your average gymnastics lessons with high bars and trampolines, but are designed to improve balance and coordination for people 65 and over.

"I know that I have to continue to stay active if I want to age well and stay mobile," said Grant, adding better balance and endurance will help her play with her grand kids. 

Grant was attending her second class, taught by Phoenix's therapeutic gymnastics coordinator, Alyssa Quattrociocchi.

"Being in fit condition and having better endurance and balance is very important to me in my interactions with them," said Eleanor Grant about keeping up with her grandchildren. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

She said the classes focus on strength exercises and balance improvement, which includes lots of stretching and movements like backwards walking. There are also exercises designed to help seniors prevent falls and get up more easily if they do fall down. 

"It's not so much the gymnastics that you might see on TV, it's more building their fitness and strength," said Quattrociocchi, adding she has seen improvements already in just one week.

Shannon Wong, 69, said she is not as steady in her senior years as she thought she would be and the classes are already helping.

"The first week you are a little unsteady and the second week you are feeling a little more confident ... so I expect by the end I'll be doing great," said Wong.

"You realize as you progress in age some things are more difficult, even your balance," said pariticpant Shannon Wong who said she feels more confident after just one class. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Class participants also have some interaction with children's classes that share the gym.

'The smiles that came up on the seniors' faces when the little three- and four-year-olds came to help them clean up, they had the biggest smiles from that," said Quattrociocchi.

The program was developed by the Delta Gymnastics Society and the gym is located at 4588 Clancy Loranger Way, in Queen Elizabeth Park. For more information click here.

Listen to a short radio documentary on the program from CBC's The Early Edition below:

Story producer Rachel Sanders brings us this story from Millennium gym where seniors are trying out the brand news fitness program. 5:37

With files from Rachel Sanders

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