Bell Aliant Centre to offer free aquafitness to Islanders over 80

Starting in May, Islanders over the age of 80 can receive free classes at the Bell Aliant Centre.

Centre offers 16 classes a week

The centre will offer free access to their 16 weekly courses to Islanders over the age of 80. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The Bell Aliant Centre is launching a new free fitness program in hopes of improving health and mobility among P.E.I.'s senior residents.

Starting in May, Islanders over the age of 80 can receive free aquafitness classes that will be offered in either a three foot deep pool or a deeper one.

Adam Ross, director of aquatics and programming at the centre, said the Island's aging population was a big reason for implementing the new program.

"I think it's kind of about balancing the business aspect of our organization, and also the community impact," he said. "With an aging population in Prince Edward Island, we wanted to do something to ensure that we keep them active in their upper years."

There are currently 25 members over the age of 80 at the centre, but Ross hopes the number will climb to 100 in a year.

Alice MacDougall has taken classes at the centre for 11 years. She said the courses have helped her mind and body.

"As you start, you build yourself up. You can do a little bit, and then all of a sudden you're doing more and more and more," said MacDougall. "So you're doing it to keep yourself toned...and for better walking, all over better health. Actually in my opinion, it's mind body and spirit, the whole thing."

Gordon McNeilly, an aquafitness instructor at the centre, said exercising in the pool is easier on seniors and can keep them mobile longer.

"Mobility becomes a huge issue as you're aging, and to get the joints moving in a free space, or the difference is when you're on land, you might not be excited to get up and get moving, but this class allows you free access to moving," said McNeilly.

"It really becomes good for the joints, and it burns calories as well."

While the classes will be free to those 80 and older, anyone can participate as the classes are adaptable to any age and ability. The centre holds 16 classes a week.

With files from Sarah MacMillan