The Hammond Recreation Center bustles with life and activity, but one special group triumphs with heart.
The Young at Heart exercise group, which meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m., consists of around 40 members ranging in age from their early 70s to early 90s. The group prides itself on nonstrenuous exercise catered to senior citizens.
“Stand proud, don’t let people think you’re an old lady,” said Norma Schexnayder, leader of the group. Sprightly and energetic Schexnayder began as a student in 2009 and has been teaching classes for three years now. She leads exercises that focus on adult daily living and teaches balance, alertness and confidence.
Her routines help the participants strengthen their muscles and minds. This allows them to perform basic tasks such as reaching for things on a high shelf while grocery shopping. Her workouts incorporate dancing elements with exercises set to a range of music from Michael Jackson to ABBA. The lessons also feature self-defense tactics in the form of barking to scare off attackers.
Schexnayder’s favorite part about teaching the class is seeing the members come out of their shells and become healthier versions of themselves.
“When someone says to me, ‘Oh I can zip my pants now,’ it’s just awesome,” she said.
Though the class consists mostly of women, occasionally a few men join the group. Some women enjoy coming to the classes as they are widows, and it gives them a place to interact with others. Many walk around the gym before class as a way to catch up on the local gossip and news.
“We’re all buddies, like a family,” said Barbara Bordelon, a devoted member of the exercise group. She says coming to the class helps to keep her mind active and also helps her to recover after her recent knee surgery. “The more you do, the younger you stay,” Bordelon said.
Loretta Vial is a Young at Heart veteran who has attended the class for over three years now. She turned 93 this year. Vial said that she enjoys this class because it is the type of exercise you would not do by yourself.
Linda Prine is also an active member who occasionally fills in for Schexnayder when she is unable to teach class. Linda began attending after her friend recommended the class, and she soon fell in love with it. This class has given her something to do with her time.
“I hope I make it to 120,” said Prine. “I have so much to see and learn.” She said attending the exercise class has made her closer to the community and has allowed her to form bonds with the other participants. Linda also attends the dance class that meets afte the exercise group.
The dance class specifically focuses on line dances. They have learned over 30 so far, and the number continues to grow as they add a new dance to their repertoire every Friday.
“Quit looking at four walls,” said Prine. “Don’t wait for the rocking chair to hit you.”