Seniors stay active in rural P.E.I. through Youthful Hearts program

Youthful Heart gives Islanders 50 and over in eastern P.E.I. a chance to try three different activities, for three weeks at a time.

'An opportunity to learn something new but also do it with other people'

The 10-week program at the Cavendish Wellness Centre in Montague, P.E.I. gives Islanders 50 and over a chance to try three different activities, for three weeks at a time. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Seniors in eastern P.E.I. are staying active this winter thanks to a free program called Youthful Hearts.

The 10-week program gives Islanders 50 and over a chance to try three different activities, for three weeks at a time.

"It's a great opportunity for them to try different things," said Jacob Smith, executive director of go! East P.E.I., also known as the Eastern Region Sport and Recreation Council.

"Try yoga, hope that they like yoga and then they will join a program, either one of ours or something else around the community."

Smith started Youthful Hearts in 2015 and participation has grown from 20 in the first year, to 45 people this winter.

Smith sees familiar faces from Youthful Hearts in other go! East P.E.I. programs. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"The numbers have been incredible, from the first year," Smith said.

"It just continues to grow every year and a lot of them are new participants as well."

Lots of laughs

Chair yoga and strength and balance have been part of every session. Smith tries to mix up the other activities which have included nordic pole walking, line dancing, indoor curling and indoor bocce ball.

Youthful Hearts is offered through go! East P.E.I., with support from the Seniors College P.E.I., which helps cover the cost of paying the instructors so that the course can be offered for free.

Line dancing has been one of the popular activities at the Youthful Hearts program. (Jacob Smith/go! East P.E.I.)

Smith admits there are a couple of reasons why Youthful Hearts has become so popular.

"Whenever things are free, especially for seniors, it makes a huge difference," Smith said.

"People get together each week and they have an opportunity to learn something new but also do it with other people and there's lots of laughs. It's a lot of fun every day."

'Free is wonderful'

 Liane Good has been part of Youthful Hearts since it started.

"As you get older, your body doesn't do all of the things you want it to do necessarily so all of the stretching and exercise is fantastic," Good said.

"Getting out of the house is great in the winter. Everybody should get out and do this in the wintertime."

Liane Good has been part of the Youthful Hearts program since it started. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

She also likes that there is no charge to take part.

"I would come even if I had to pay because it's worth it," Good said. 

"But free is wonderful too for seniors on a fixed income."

Chair yoga is one of the most popular activities and offered at every program. (Jacob Smith/go! East P.E.I.)

Good says she has noticed that her balance has improved.

"When I first started, we'd hang on to the back of a chair and lift our arm and leg and I'd be wobbling all over the place," Good said.

"Now I can let go of the chair and stand on one leg."

Not many men

Roger Andrew is one of just two or three men in the program.

"There's a shortage of males, I don't know particularly why because this is a really healthy thing to do," Andrew said. 

"It's not hard to do and afterwards your body feels really good so I don't know why more men don't come."

Nordic pole walking is one of the activities introduced as part of the program. (Jacob Smith/go! East P.E.I.)

Youthful Hearts is now offered twice a year, in winter and in spring, and many participants then move into other fitness programs.

"I've heard from people specifically saying how it's helped them or how it's helped their husband," Smith said.

"So I definitely have seen a big increase in people doing other things after this."

Jacob Smith likes to take a group photo every time they complete one of the three-week activities. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Smith hopes the program can expand.

"My idea is hopefully that not only will we be able to move Youthful Hearts into different communities in eastern P.E.I.," Smith said.

"But also hopefully be able to get some programs all over the Island."

More P.E.I. news

About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.