Friday, April 13, 2012

Jazzy National Coverage, Plus a Profile of Laurie Evans at the Ashland Y

This is Laurie Evans, the Health Enhancement/Older Adult Director at the Ashland Family YMCA. I am writing about Laurie later in this blog but introducing her happy face to you as a preview.

Spring, and the lilac bushes are bright green with new leaves outside my window. There are tulips and grape hyacinth and daffodils blooming in the front garden. The white clematis is emitting its fragrance on the side fence. Spring is such a beautiful season. I love watching everything come back to life day by day. I've included two photos of the front garden.

Jazzy national coverage!
I was interviewed by Rachel Black from the National Center for Creative Aging for their Beautiful Minds Campaign and the interview was posted on their blog the other day. I was pleased to have the opportunity to share news about Sage's Play and the development of A New Wrinkle, our musical revue. I think Rachel did a nice job. You can read the article here.

I have interviewed a fair number of people myself -- I made my living in NYC as a magazine writer when I was in my 20s. I enjoy the interview process, whichever side of it I'm on.

I interviewed Laurie Evans at our local YMCA recently. I got to know her on my regular visits to the Y, an organization that definitely makes you feel welcome when you walk in the door. Laurie has worked at the two local Ys for close to 30 years. She's been at the Ashland Y for 14 years.

The first thing I noticed about Laurie was her cheerful openness. After observing her classes and interactions over a period of several months in the course of my Y visits, I decided to interview her about her work with older adults and exercise.

Laurie loves working at the Y. "Our programs fit the needs of the community," she told me. "We're oriented to be sensitive to participants' age, capacity, pacing and signals. I'm very aware of safety and medical issues in my work with older adults. And I appreciate the culture of the Y personally, too. My job description has changed over the years. I feel respected and appreciated for the knowledge I have and the relationship I have with baby boomers and others in the older population."

I asked Laurie whether sometimes older adults are hesitant to use the Y because they feel intimidated by the presence of more fit, younger people. (I know I was at first.) She told me that the Y has many teachers 55 and older whose age and teaching style provides a sense of ease for older adults.

"Baby boomers are the fastest growing population," she said,"and our generation is demanding progressive classes that are not only good for the body, but also are fun. People don't just want the physical workout, they also want to have a good time. That's why Zumba, water fitness and the senior circuit classes are so popular."

Laurie has seen a great deal of positive change in people as they take up a regular exercise program with guidance from staff. "I had a cane. Now I have no cane," one man told Laurie happily. When he first attended the Y, he could hardly walk. "He walks on his own. He talks more, too," Laurie said. And there have been many others whose physical and mental condition has improved thanks to exercising at the Y.

"Exercise stimulates the brain. You're getting more oxygen. Also, neural pathways are helped by engaging in new activities. Exercise stimulates appetite, helps with sleep, helps reduce stress levels and depression," Laurie said.

Social connection is another important aspect of the Y experience here for older adults. According to Laurie,"Members help each other. They become friends. It's a positive atmosphere, creating a small community. We have Friday coffees so people can meet and talk and also have a monthly birthday party in the lobby."

It's obvious that Laurie is a big advocate for the Y and its programs and it's clear why she is. She loves helping others and seeing their lives improve. Then there's the Y itself. "We have an amazing board of directors and a great CEO and a great staff," she smiled.

I know that my own experience at the Y is always upbeat. Staff are friendly and welcoming. The facility and its equipment are wonderful. It's a good place to keep fit, meet friends and make new friends.

I hope that you have a regular exercise program. Exercise, healthy diet and a life saturated with positive emotions are all great supports for healthy aging.

That's the story here on this Friday the 13th!


  1. Your Y certainly is certainly active. I like the idea of a Friday coffee hour. I think some older folks feel intimidated walking into a large facility for the first time. I know from experience that it is difficult to "break in." A coffee hour strips away the formality of a structured program which leaves a more relaxed welcoming environment. Good post -- barbara

    1. Thanks Barbara and hope you will take the time to read the NCCA interview if you have a moment or two....