Seniors keep it SASSY at YMCA

Pictured is the Port Hawkesbury YMCA’s SASSY program for local seniors.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Local seniors have been keeping it SASSY thanks to the efforts of the local YMCA.

The Port Hawkesbury YMCA officially concluded its SASSY program at with a two-hour celebration last Friday. The celebration was held at the Bear Head Conference Room at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. SASSY stands for Social, Active Seniors of the Strait Area YMCA.

Branch manager Patti MacDonald-David said seniors really seemed to get a kick out of the program.

“They’d come in at 11 a.m., and we’d do an hour of exercise,” she said. “We did chair yoga, which they loved; we did walking track exercises, and a certified laughter yoga instructor came in. There are lots of benefits for the heart, body and mind in laughter.

“We introduced them to a little bit of everything: weights, stretching, walking, and more up-beat stuff. They were able to come in and workout at their own pace.

“We wanted to tell them, look, you might have arthritis in the knee, a back problem, or you might not have exercised in your whole life, but you can do something. This is a place for everybody.”

Eighty-five people over the age of 55 took part in the program, which met every Friday for the last six weeks. There was also a lengthy wait list of people wanting to join up.

Initiated as a response to a Town of Port Hawkesbury senior’s survey in 2017, which identified limited access to activities for seniors, the program was designed to reach out to seniors, invite them to experience the YMCA’s programs, make new friends, and learn about community services. Statistics Canada’s 2016 report indicates that the Town of Port Hawkesbury has a total population of approximately 3100 citizens and 38 per cent are over 50 years old.

MacDonald-David said seniors really seemed to get something out of the program. They exercised for an hour and then, at noon, the group took part in community health information workshops while they enjoyed lunch together.

“For seniors, it’s not just about health – it has to be social,” she said. “There has to be a cup of tea involved too. They like sharing information with each other, and they take that information home to their neighbours. The information got out to a lot of people.”

The wrap-up celebration was well-attended. Community partners were on hand with information tables, including 211 Nova Scotia, from which the group’s public relations officer Suzy Teubner fleshed out an overview of services.

Core funding from the Department of Seniors allowed the YMCA to offer the program free of charge to seniors. Complimentary assistance from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage enabled the YMCA to purchase a wide variety of safe, senior friendly exercise and conditioning equipment.

Seniors looking to keep the ball rolling are welcome to tap MacDonald-David on the shoulder about the YMCA’s newest program, Senior’s in Motion. It will be starting in the fall of 2019.