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Activity: A Springboard for Hope
As children we all knew the wisdom of listening to one’s
parents. But 82-year old parent and World War II veteran Ted
Kerin listened to his children and decided to take their advice.
Still grieving over the death of his
wife, Mr. Kerin had, in his words, “let his mind and
body go to pot.” He stayed inside most days watching
television and eating junk food. At the urging of his children,
Mr. Kerin visited the Mt. Washington Senior Center in Pittsburgh,
PA. At the senior center, Mr. Kerin met other people with
whom he shared similar backgrounds and experiences. And
they helped him to come alive again.
“My kids talked me into going
to the senior citizens center,” he said. “It’s
very enlightening. I realized I was falling into a slump.
Talking to people there helped a lot.”
Soon after coming to the senior center,
Mr. Kerin discovered the Active for Life® Active Living
Every Day (ALED) program sponsored by OASIS. ALED teaches
people skills they need to realistically fit physical activity
into their daily lives. Mr. Kerin enrolled in the 20-week
program and with help from his dedicated family he was able
to attend the weekly classes. Shirley Pogue, facilitator
with the Pittsburgh ALED Program, comments, “Ted was
my pride and joy in the Mt. Washington class. He was very
nervous when he first came. His daughter brought him and
stayed with him the first class, helped him fill out all
the paperwork and continued to drop him off each week for
class. I could see the changes take place in him from week
one to week twenty. He was very quiet at the beginning of
the program, and then at the end of the program, you couldn’t
get him to stop talking!”
Since beginning ALED in September
of 2004, Mr. Kerin adds physical activity into his daily
routine in a myriad of ways. Due to vision problems, he
doesn’t go outdoors alone for physical activity. But
when the weather is good, he and his daughters walk about
two miles up and down the hills of Mt. Washington almost
every day. He also uses his basement gym. Mr. Kerin says
“My kids gave me an exercise bike and some weights
and we set them up in the basement. It’s cold down
there in the winter, but I use the equipment in the nice
weather.” And when it’s too cold in the basement
for Ted to work out, he cleans house.
As a result of joining ALED, Mr. Kerin
experiences less stiffness and aching in his joints but
the biggest change in his life has been in his attitude.
“The class gave me a lift. I had a chance to be with
people who were understanding and helped me want to do activities
and get back into life again. I haven’t felt this
good mentally and physically in a long time.”
And Mr. Kerin isn’t the only
one who benefited from his participation in the Mt. Washington
ALED class. Ms. Pogue says, “Everyone in the group
looked to him as the grandfather of the group. They were
worried when he did not show up for class. This class was
a great release for him. It motivated him to get going again
and when he talked about getting the gym equipment in the
basement it seemed like it opened another door that had
been closed for a long time. He just kept smiling. He was
a joy to have.”
Mary Esther Van Shura, Ed.D, assistant
director of the Pittsburgh Department of Parks and Recreation
who is also an OASIS-Pittsburgh ALED partner says, “I
think the collaboration between OASIS/Active Living and
Citiparks has been great. It’s a great illustration
of how getting Ted to participate in this program has resulted
in changing the image of aging. His quality of life was
truly enhanced physically, emotionally and socially as a
result of him participating in the program.”
In addition to physical activity,
the ALED program assists seniors in finding meaning in their
lives and developing interests to keep them physically and
mentally active. It teaches that inactivity can lead to
illnesses and disability. The program’s goal is for
older adults “to develop the behavioral skills needed
to build moderate to vigorous physical activity into their
daily lives.” Mr. Kerin has accomplished this and
once again is finding enjoyment in life.
Mr. Kerin is now a member of the ALED
Alumni group which meets monthly at OASIS to provide accountability.
The program also includes speakers who address health issues
pertinent to physical activity. In addition to his role
in the ALED Alumni group, Mr. Kerin also goes to the senior
center for lunch three times a week and participates in
trips and some activities offered at the center.
His gratitude is apparent in his heartfelt
comments. “Thank you for offering this,” he said,
“I like these people.” And Ms. Pogue voiced what
every ALED facilitator hopes to say about every ALED participant,
“The program gave Ted the confidence to transform his
life from one of sedentary mental, emotional and physical
condition to being fully active again. It was great to be
a part of his success!”
Active for Life® is one
of six Active Living programs funded by the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation® to promote healthy living and active lifestyles.
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