Rec & Ed’s free classes for those 65 & older are designed to increase strength, reduce falls

Funded by a state grant, the Staying Active and Independent for Life (S.A.I.L.) classes run through July

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

Many of Rec & Ed’s yoga, fitness and enrichment programs help improve the well-being of older adults.

Now, thanks to a grant from The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services Aging & Adult Services Agency, those 65 and older can sign up for free classes specifically targeted for those who have issues with balance and mobility, with the goals of increasing strength and improving balance.

Stay Active and Independent for Life (S.A.I.L.) is an evidence-based and medically oriented program that has been proven to help in the areas of muscle weakness, gait dysfunction, and balance and can reduce fall risk factors.  After participation in the 10-week program, research showed improvements in these areas for participants that adhered to attendance requirements—which is 3 times per week for 10 weeks. 

These classes, which will be held via Zoom for those southeast Michigan residents 65 and older, are aimed at preventing age-related declines, explained Adult Enrichment Supervisor Seema Jolly.

“Rec & Ed is excited to offer programming for people who maybe haven’t been able to keep up with an exercise routine for the past year because of the pandemic, or are in a place where they’re ready to start a consistent routine to help them maintain their independence and improve their health,” said Jolly. “And what they’ll be learning they can do from the comfort of their own home, with very little equipment, which will hopefully make it easier to continue after the 10 weeks are completed.”  

Terry McNeely, Rec & Ed’s Fitness and Yoga Program Supervisor, explained that the S.A.I.L. class will have a certified instructor invested in the health and wellness of each individual participant.  S.A.I.L. classes are expected to begin later this month.

“Like an in-person class, this class will be interactive with the instructor ensuring participants are executing the exercises correctly and making real-time modifications for individuals where and when necessary,” said McNeely.  “Remember, this is an evidence-based program, which means due to prior research there are factors in place that are proven to work.  This class will follow all of the protocols set forth in the research to ensure the safety and success of each participant, so long as the participant invests in the attendance and engagement part of the program. The needs of our participants will always be addressed through modifications, adjustments, and education.”

Although the LifeLong Learning section at Rec & Ed offers a wide variety of excellent fitness/yoga programs that can accommodate most of the aging baby boomers, this class is different, explained McNeely.

“There is a population of individuals that demonstrate minor ambulatory difficulties due to muscle weakness, gait dysfunction, and balance issues,” McNeely said.  “Weaknesses in these areas are a fall risk factor for this generation.  Injuries and deaths from falls are a prime concern for this age group and a huge cost factor for healthcare.  Many individuals may have participated in water exercises to stay active and strong but, since the start of the pandemic they have not been able to find any programs designed to address their specific needs.  As we all know, this population of our community is a growing sector thanks to the many advances in health and science but, research shows the incidence of falls related to this age group is also a growing concern. “

Each S.A.I.L. class will have 6 components:  a warm-up, aerobics, cool down/balance, strength training, flexibility/stretch, educational portion.  All exercises will be modified to accommodate the needs of all participants and can be modified to be done standing or seated.  Students are monitored and periodic assessments are completed to address the need for additional challenges, and participants are able to see the improvements through the assessments as well as in the ease of executing daily tasks.

Those who’ve signed up for Rec & Ed programming offered to adults in the past year have appreciated the interactive nature of using Zoom and the ways that instructors still create community in a virtual setting, which will be very central to the programs we’re offering this spring/summer with the MDHHS funding.

“Even though there are a lot of options available on the Internet,” said Jolly, “people know that when they sign up for a Rec & Ed program, we have instructors from our community who are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about what they’re teaching, they care about their participants, and as a result, take the time to modify the programs to the group’s needs–which you can’t get from YouTube.”

For a pre-screening and to register for a class, contact Terry McNeely by sending an email to Classes are expected to begin at the end of May.


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