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Active Seniors Flocking to Exercise Classes

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By Phil Dodd

Exercise classes at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, offered in four sessions a year primarily to those age 50 and over, are increasing in number and attendance “every quarter,” according to Senior Center director Janna Clar.

“We’ve had tremendous growth in the number of courses we offer in order to keep up with demand, in the number of people taking the courses, and in the number of classes that are getting filled up,” Clar said.

This winter, the Senior Center offerings include 21 yoga classes, six “bone builder” classes, four Pilates classes, two tai chi classes, two dance classes, and two “somatic movement” classes. Most meet once a week, although the popular bone builder classes meet twice a week.

In addition to its “Active Living and Wellness” classes, the Senior Center also offers several other well-attended courses for those 50 and over. These courses are of two general types—“performing and fine arts” and “humanities and more”—making the Senior Center a busy place.

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Demographic trends, with more baby boomers retiring every year, are behind the growth in courses at the Senior Center, Clar said. “We expect that will keep happening for a few more years,” she said. The fees for the courses are also quite reasonable, encouraging some people to sign up for more than one course.

Clar noted that the Senior Center has been combined by the city with the Parks Department and Recreation Department into one Community Services Department. The combined department is moving beyond the 50+ crowd by offering an increasing number of courses to adults of any age. These are offered at both the Senior Center and the Recreation Center, she said.

Zumba is a very popular all-ages class, she noted. Another class open to adults of any age this winter is a class in “Feldenkrais movement exploration.” On registration day, that class filled up right away and had nine people on the waiting list by noon, Clar said.

The demand for exercise classes, particularly the 50-and-over classes, has maxed out space at the Senior Center and led to yoga and Pilates classes being scheduled at the Middlesex and Worcester town halls but open to anyone. Clar said those towns, which contribute some money to the operation of the Senior Center, had asked that classes to be offered in their towns.

More and more residents of surrounding towns are signing up for Senior Center courses, she noted, but many of those towns are also contributing more. “We used to get $1,000 in total from other towns,” Clar said. “For fiscal year 2019 we got almost $30,000, and we’ll be asking for $36,300 for fiscal year 2020.”

The money from surrounding towns for FY19 is part of the $595,515 in revenues that the Senior Center is budgeted to take in during the current fiscal year. Out of that total, the City of Montpelier general fund kicked in $121,322. The rest is coming from membership and course fees, investments, grants, donations, and facility rentals, Clar said.

The towns helping to support the Senior Center include Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex, Moretown, and Worcester. Clar said that Barre City could join the group this year if Barre voters approve the idea in March.

Most classes at the Senior Center offer different rates for members and non-members. For example, many yoga classes meet 12 times a quarter and cost members $25 for the entire quarter. The rate is $35 for non-members.

Montpelier residents 50 and over can become members for $15 a year. Residents of supporting towns pay $30 per year to become a member, and all others pay $50. One third of Senior Center members now come from surrounding towns, Clar noted.

In addition to taking courses, Senior Center members can sign up for discounted memberships or punch cards at First in Fitness in Berlin, Alpenglow Fitness in Montpelier, and RehabGYM in Barre. Members can also sign up for water aerobics, lap swimming, and tennis at First in Fitness.

The current classes started in early January and end in March. The next series of classes will run from April to June, and the initial sign-up for those will happen on March 11, both in-person and online.

“Members from Montpelier and FY19 supporting towns can sign up starting March 11,” Clar said. “Registrations for other towns will be processed starting March 25.”

Clar said that it is not too late to sign up for some of this winter’s classes. To find the current catalog, go to montpelier-vt.org/297/Montpelier-Senior-Activity-Center.