Dear Editor – Becoming an Active Senior Changed My Life

When my husband of over 40 years passed away I spent the next four years lost in grief, doing absolutely nothing. I didn’t venture out beyond grocery shopping and mail pick up. I struggled with the notion that life as I knew it had ended. I felt divorced from my future with no goals or interests.

I admit I was wrong to isolate myself for fear of change. My partner died, but I had to carry on.

In time my grief subsided and I became acutely aware that my sedentary lifestyle had resulted in significant weight gain, declining strength and lost muscle tone. I realized I had to take action to rejoin the world and recapture self-confidence.

I discovered there are no short cuts when you join a gym. You are forced to move, twist and bend. I threw myself into an exercise program with the same exuberance I had at age 30, only now I was pushing 70.

Within two months, I had a compression fracture of the spine that earned me six weeks of physical therapy in a heated pool. That experience taught me to seek a kinder, gentler fitness program.

I joined the Culver-Palms YMCA pool group with the mere expectation of continuing my water workout. I had no idea this would be a life-changing experience.

I found myself embraced by a group of youthful energetic seniors who welcome strangers as family and enjoy each other’s company through movement and song. Now, I look forward to our 8:30am class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Regardless of aches, pains or disabilities, the low impact water exercise is easy on the joints. The healing water allows us to move with grace and ease. We embrace the freedom of weightless abandon through gentle exercise with water dumbbells and pool noodles set to song.

Singing improves blood circulation and brings more oxygen to the brain. The benefits are mental alertness with better concentration and memory. And, it’s fun! Our voices resonate with joy over lyrics from nursery rhymes, jump rope ditties, show tunes and good old fashioned anthems of American pride.

Our fellowship moves beyond locker room banter to after-class coffee, lunches, movies and celebrations. We share family photos, health updates, and offer generous doses of genuine care and concern for each other’s wellbeing. Ridesharing is common, so there’s no excuse for lack of transportation.

The fitness program we follow today was developed by Esther Ekmanian who led the class for more than 20 years. Many still remember her “21st” birthday party. Esther was a leap year baby who was 84 years young at the time.

Though some have moved on to faraway places, the core group remains connected through email newsletters distributed by Mary McGindley, who also choreographs active seniors’ activities.

Newcomer Dannie Hoffman says her first impression of the water movement group was “of a bunch of people who are really happy to be together, who enjoy what they are doing, and who are extremely open and welcoming.”

“I don’t think I have ever been so quickly made to feel welcome and accepted. Members of this group show up consistently and work through the exercises with humor and enthusiasm, relishing the opportunity to find their own best level of performance. The mood of the class is consistently supportive and positive and the experience is playful and full of laughter. I am very happy to have found such a healthy and happy way to become stronger and more agile. Nothing compares to the bliss of easing into the weightless warmth of the pool and into the laughter of the group.”

It’s a myth that senior citizens are meant to be feeble, timid, or obsessed with dying. It’s a proven fact that we are living longer, healthier lives thanks to our diet and activity choices.

The Culver-Palms YMCA Active Adults and Water Fitness Group consists of senior men and women primarily over age 65, though some are younger, who represent all races and ethnicities coming together for low-impact water exercise and fun.

There’s no body shaming or criticism in our pool group. We support each other and respect limitations. Each of us work out at our own pace and do what our bodies allow.

I was lost and alone when my husband died. Now I’m part of a loving supportive group that enjoys being active and having fun. There’s no reason for anyone to deny themselves the pleasure of good company while pursuing a more active lifestyle. Come join us!

For more information, visit Culver-Palms YMCA, 4500 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230; log on to, or call 310-390-3604.

Cathy Roby

The Actors' Gang

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