Seniors stay active in rural P.E.I. through Youthful Hearts program
'An opportunity to learn something new but also do it with other people'
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."
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Smith started Youthful Hearts in 2015 and participation has grown from 20 in the first year, to 45 people this winter.
"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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."