PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Because of social distancing rules, Drexel Gilbert has been “off” the road for a few weeks. But thanks to technology and a little photography help from a new friend, Drexel is back with the story of how a creative fitness instructor and balcony view are keeping seniors healthy and enjoying a sense of community in the isolation.
When the spread of COVID-19 caused self-isolation to become necessary, Hayley Bell, life enrichment assistant at American House Bluewater Bay, got creative. Knowing that being alone is not good for anyone, but especially seniors, Bell was determined to keep her residents active and engaged.
“My idea was to take my normal morning stretch routine, which we hold on the 5th floor of the building and I brought that outside,” says Bell. “Everything has changed, and if we can somehow stick to a regular schedule or routine, it might help”
American House Bluewater Bay resident Jim Diddle attends the outside patio exercise classes. “All these old bones get a good stretch and a good workout.”
But Hayley didn’t stop at the patio. To keep group numbers down, she invited residents to also join the exercise class from their individual apartment balconies! The balconies overlook the patio.
83-year-old Chris Warsheski loves being able to exercise with her friends while maintaining social distance. “I do my stretch up on my balcony so that way I m safe and nobody else is around, says Warsheski, adding, “I’m doing pretty good for 83 years old!”
The residents are encouraged to stand or sit for the stretches.
“They have chairs set up. There are a lot of chair exercises,” says Bell. And, the unique design of the building provides the perfect amphitheater for Bell to call out her instructions. “We have a horseshoe shaped building. Somehow, my voice projects perfectly and they can hear me with no microphone or anything.”
The residents say outdoor balcony exercise is a lifesaver for their bodies and their souls.
“I have trouble with my balance and I work on that,” says Diddle.
“Probably we’d all go crazy if we didn’t have something like this to do,” says Warsheski.
When asked why she went to the trouble of organizing these “separate but together” stretching classes, Bell says “To bring a little bit of normalcy to their life.”
The residents are very appreciative. “It’s a blessing,” says Diddle.
Bell is quick to note that the outdoor exercises on the patio deck are limited in size and that all residents keep a minimum 6-foot distance from each other.
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