Elders taught the value of exercise, and fun, at annual symposium

A table of elders, and Dave Jones too, dressed for the occasion practice their newly learned exercises during the Elders’ Symposium. photos by Alicia McCutcheon

LITTLE CURRENT—The 7th annual ‘Soaring Through the Years Elders’ Symposium’ was once again held at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre and, as always, the employees of Mnaamodzawin put on a festive affair full of 1920s-era flapper fashion, great music by the Manitoulin Swing Band and plenty of learning opportunities too.

The morning began with the always enthusiastic Dave Jones of Turtle Concepts as emcee who also gave advice on ‘becoming the happiest elder ever.’

After a delicious lunch catered by the hotel, the famed Manitoulin Swing Band, comprised of many elders too, got the hotel moving to the sounds of the era. Within no time, many of the participants were up and moving to the band with Jim and Joanne Smith offering some lessons (or refreshers) in swing dance too.

The afternoon session had Clara Fitzgerald, director of the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging at the University of Western Ontario, herself a First Nations woman, speaking to the large group about ‘getting fitter with age.’

She began by handing everyone a purple plastic ball and began walking her audience through a number of exercises they can do at home.

Ms. Fitzgerald explained that for those over the age of 80, 85 percent of their time is spent sitting.

She urged everyone to place the ball at their lower back. This simple placement helps with posture and breathing.

“Life is about showing up, dressing the part (giving a nod to the many costumed participants) and being your own dog,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “Life is about engagement and finding connections that keep you alive.”

“It’s never too late to exercise,” she urged, “you can get started at any time.”

Ms. Fitzgerald said that aging is all about maintaining health and vitality and that it is our responsibility to keep our bodies moving as they age.

In a national survey, people were asked, ‘if their life depended on it, would you exercise?’ “Only 30 percent of people 55 and older said they would do it,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “The lesson here is that as a society, we don’t value the benefits of exercise and our health.”

“The old adage ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’ when it comes to mobility is true,” she continued. “We have to keep ourselves moving every single day.”

Ms. Fitzgerald went through many exercises with the purple ball, from the feet up, explaining that after the age of 25, we lose one percent of our strength and flexibility each year.

“Keeping the body moving is the only way to reverse the affects of aging,” she added. “We can be of a certain age, but still function as if we are much younger, but only through exercise.”