Cerwydden seniors getting fit and staying active

Gert Duhamel enjoys the music events that are part and paarcel to the Cerwydden recreation program. Her favourite instrument is never far from her side. - Judy Reid-Luhtala
Gert Duhamel enjoys the music events that are part and paarcel to the Cerwydden recreation program. Her favourite instrument is never far from her side.
— image credit: Judy Reid-Luhtala

It's Friday and weekly fitness time at Duncan's Cerwydden residential care home.

"Whamp that ball!" cries Cerwydden's Judy Reid-Luhtala as a dozen or so seniors focus eagle eyes on a brightly striped beach ball and swat it back and forth along the floor with neon-coloured nerf balls.

Beginning with stretching and Tai Chi movements, Reid-Luhtala leads the group through breathing and movement exercises. At the end of this session, she moves upstairs to lead a second group.

Twice weekly, a rehabilitation specialist arrives to work one-on-one with residents to boost range of motions and mobility.

For many of the 56 seniors who call Cerwydden home, the Friday morning fitness hour is just one cog in a continuous wheel of activities.

"The activity program for our residents is important to me," says Reid-Luhtala, Cerwydden's director of volunteer resources and recreation.

"The recreational component of complex daily care is the spark that ignites the daily life of the residents."

And when you see the smiles that erupt on wrinkled faces as the group "whamp that ball" you know the spark has erupted from within.

Cerwydden's sense of community is evident. As Reid-Luhtala sees it, the major thrusts of her program are to promote and provide emotional security and independence and to provide opportunities for choice.

"Not all residents want to be involved in every program all the time. And that's natural," she explains.

The program Reid-Luhtala has devised, encompassing arts and crafts, music, baking, gardening, reading, news and views, birthday and special day parties and spiritual visits has an ebb and flow to it.

"As residents arrive and depart, there's an ever-changing rhythm; the program's always evolving to meet the current needs of the residents," explains Reid-Luhtala.

For example, she's going to introduce wheelchair yoga, or whoga, very soon. And she wants to start a men's group, too.

"I believe there's a need for the men here to sit round a table and talk," she explains.

What's important, she says, is that whether for leisure or therapy, the program's dedicated to recognizing the uniqueness of individuals and their circumstances.

And if you think age or disability is a barrier to these programs, you'd be dead wrong. Although confined to wheelchairs, both Joe Dodd, 81, and Lydia Kinnear, 104, take part in many of the recreational activities offered by Cerwydden.

Recently they joined art and craft groups that decorated gingerbread houses and made other Christmas decorations. Earlier this month, group members glued together beautiful red and white lace hearts to celebrate Valentine's day.

Among other activities, Kinnear and Dodd listen to the eight music sessions per month provided by local musicians and DJs; and they listen avidly to stories and poems in a weekly reading group.

As well, local harpist Cherry Baines provides music with individual residents and also works with a mid-sized vocal group.

"It's very therapeutic," says Reid-Luhtala.

There's mental aerobics, too, as she brainstorms with residents.

"Just recently, we brainstormed warm places for holidays, how to get there, what to bring," she smiles.

"Activities likes these provide mental stimulation and evoke memories."

Reid-Luhtala, whose background includes art and acting studies and who's worked for 20 years in seniors' recreation, leads many of the groups herself with the support of volunteers.

"There's much in the program we couldn't do without our volunteers," she says. "There are activities that are volunteer-driven."

In some cases, volunteers take ownership of a program - like reading group and manicure for example.

"Volunteers are the heart of the organization; they enhance every program we have."

If you're interested in volunteering, you can call Reid-Luhtala for information at 250-746-4432, ext 238.





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