Local YMCA: A hotspot for seniors

Zephyrhills is known for being a place where lots of people like to come during the winter — to avoid the bitter cold winters Up North.

Some of the snowbirds who flock there enjoy the community so much, they become permanent residents.

But there’s always a perceptible increase in traffic on the roads and diners when the snowbirds are in town.

Group exercise classes give seniors a chance to stay fit, and socialize, at the East Pasco Family YMCA in Zephyrhills. (Brian Fernandes)

That uptick in activity is evident in other places, too, including the East Pasco Family YMCA.

The Zephyrhills branch offers seniors a place where they can stay active and can socialize.

Ryan Pratt, membership and wellness experience director at the branch, said he often chats with seniors to learn about their interests, with the aim of providing more programming for them.

There tends to be an influx of older members during this time of year, he said.

But the community also is heavily populated with seniors year-round.

And, because of that, the East Pasco YMCA has “specialized senior programming,” he said.

“That’s really taken off, I would say, over the last six months,” he added.

The Active Older Adults program offers group exercise classes.

In those classes, seniors perform stretches and work out in unison, under the direction of an instructor.

There are provisions made in the courses to accommodate those who have physical limitations, to allow them to exercise along with those who do not have those limitations, he said.

For instance, some class members may be in a wheelchair, while others are still quite active and fit, he said.

Healthy Living Initiative Programs offer therapeutic sessions for those with chronic issues such as arthritis.

Clare Christmas, of St. Leo, enjoys using the gym at East Pasco Family YMCA, in Zephyrhills.

And for those who prefer individual work outs, there’s a gym room.

At the beginning of the year, the facility added new exercise equipment and weights.

Those heading to the East Pasco YMCA also can enjoy such sports as basketball, volleyball and pickleball.

Pickelball, which is similar to tennis, is quite popular, Pratt said.

A senior committee meets once a month with center staff, to offer suggestions and feedback from members.

It allows their voices to be heard — and, it’s a way to promote potluck meals at the facility, Pratt said.

Last year, the YMCA branch started to implement a calendar to give members a heads up about non-exercise related activities.

Aside from fitness programs, it’s a place where seniors can hang out and socialize over a cup of coffee.

It’s a therapeutic environment for those who can empathize with someone else’s struggles, Pratt said.

“I’ve seen laughing, crying, hugging every day,” Pratt said.

Another Healthy Living Initiative Program is Live Strong.

This group consists of cancer survivors who can share their thoughts and learn about choosing healthier foods.

Sometimes older member venture out and about.

“Our senior group will go one visit to a Zephyrhills restaurant and one visit to a Dade City restaurant,” Pratt said. “We’ll get 15, 25, 30 people this time of year, with our snowbirds down here.”

The twice-a-month field trips allow the group to get a good meal and to support local businesses, Pratt added.

When a member has been absent for several weeks, the YMCA staff will check up on them, Pratt said.

Pratt said the facility is like the television show “Cheers.”

It’s a place, “where everybody knows your name,” he said.

“We do like to say we’re more than just a gym,” he added. “We are here to serve this community. That is our mission, that’s are goal.”

To learn more about the East Pasco Family YMCA, please call (813) 780-9622 or visit www.TampaYMCA.org.

Published January 22, 2020

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