ELLSWORTH — Last Friday was a beautiful late summer day, and the 30 or so seniors gathered in Knowlton Park were certainly not about to miss out.
They were there with local nonprofit Friends in Action as part of an exercise program that gave them the chance to, among other things, balance an egg, bowl and even get in a little dancing.
“It’s wonderful. It’s good for people to be outside,” said Jo Cooper, executive director of Friends in Action. “It’s important to have some fun, have a laugh, and not just have this be going the gym.”
For this field day, the seniors were led through a series of events by trainers Machelle LaHaye and Europa Hagarman, pairing off in groups of two for a little friendly competition. First came balancing a Frisbee, then a beanbag toss. Next there was an egg and spoon race, followed by bowling with a rubber ball and bottles for pins. And the final event — dressing up in their finest prom attire to dance back to the starting line.
“We were wondering what we could do to bring everyone together so that we could all socialize,” said Hagerman. “They love the exercise; it really helps everyone’s day come to life.”
“We were thinking of a way for fitness to be fun, and the senior prom was part of that,” LaHaye added. “And it’s not just regular exercises; it’s cognitive movement. Getting the brain invested.”
Even gentle exercise can be critical in maintaining not just physical health, but mental health as well. A study published in January 2019 in the journal Neurology found that “Higher levels of total daily activity and better motor abilities were independently associated with better cognition.”
Friends in Action holds exercise classes throughout the week aimed at adults 50 and older, as well as a boxing class for people with Parkinson’s disease, where the repetitive bursts of movement are shown to help slow the progression of the disease. In August, the nonprofit also received a $40,000 grant to build an adult playground in Knowlton Park.
Hancock resident Bill Ceckler, who five weeks ago took a spill off his bicycle the day before his 90th birthday, was back on his feet and dancing back to the starting line with Cooper. His “prom” attire was a shawl.
“I normally participate in the exercise program, and I think this is great,” Ceckler said. “Three or four days ago I got back on a bike. I’m walking better. I feel a lot better.”