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Seniors on the move: The H-F Park District’s focus on seniors

Welcome, seniors! The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District is offering an array of programs designed for you.

Movement is essential, and there are several programs – Silver Sneakers, tennis, pickleball, bowling and line dancing – that can motivate seniors to keep moving.

The park district also has programs designed for socialization through luncheons, hands-on crafts and upcoming trips.

  • Members of the line dancing class at the Irwin Center in Homewood come out for the exercise and camaraderie. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
    Members of the line dancing class at the Irwin Center in Homewood come out for the exercise and camaraderie. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
  • Members of the line dancing class at the Irwin Center in Homewood come out for the exercise and camaraderie. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
    Members of the line dancing class at the Irwin Center in Homewood come out for the exercise and camaraderie. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
  • Anne Smith gets the first bingo at Fiesta Bingo in Irwin Center Aug. 24. The games were sponsored by Sunrise of Flossmoor. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
    Anne Smith gets the first bingo at Fiesta Bingo in Irwin Center Aug. 24. The games were sponsored by Sunrise of Flossmoor. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
  • Stretches are part of the hour-long Silver Sneakers program on Tuesday afternoons for seniors. Between 30 and 40 people attend the classes designed to improve mobility and strengthen muscles. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
    Stretches are part of the hour-long Silver Sneakers program on Tuesday afternoons for seniors. Between 30 and 40 people attend the classes designed to improve mobility and strengthen muscles. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

“We are a community center, and it’s our purpose to bring people together and have a great time,” said Devin Frendreis, director of senior programs at the Irwin Center. She stepped into the role after the pandemic and found it took time to get senior citizens to return after the world shut down for more than a year.

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She never wanted to cancel programs; she wanted to stimulate seniors’ interest in returning to a regular routine. She was hoping word would spread, and eventually it did.

Frendreis has developed a number of new programs. Wind Down Wednesdays, a chance to get together over a glass of wine or mocktail, was a big success. The 2022 holiday luncheon had 50 people.

When the remodeling of the Irwin Center started, wood paneling came down. Frendreis decided to use the wood in craft sessions. Seniors have created seasonal and holiday decorations.

There are ongoing groups: Current Events discussion group meets Thursdays at 10 a.m. at the Irwin Center, and the Coloring Club meets Tuesdays at 10 a.m., although the name is a misnomer. It’s really a time for people doing knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking and other crafts, to come together.

A senior luncheon is planned for Oct. 4 at the Irwin Center with entertainment by Dave Rudolf.

Salsa and Sangria from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Irwin Center includes a salsa and merengue dance lesson, followed by a chance to taste various salsas and small bites.

Seniors and Seniors on Dec. 16 at Wiley’s Grill pairs Homewood-Flossmoor High School seniors with senior citizens. Together they help North Pole elves answer letters to Santa.

Favorite Things is the theme for the holiday luncheon from noon to 2 p.m. on Dec. 13 at Wiley’s Grill.

“We’ve been seeing more and more new VIPs come out,” Frendreis said. “We’re reaching new people. My goal is everybody bring a friend.”

Tiring exercise is good
The park district has a variety of programs to get seniors exercising.

If you’re tired after a workout, that’s a good thing, says Jeffrey Lippert who teaches a Silver Sneakers Seniors Fitness class at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club.

“The only way to build muscular strength and muscular endurance is to fatigue.”

His Tuesday afternoon Silver Sneakers class draws up to 40 people in the club’s studio room with others attending by Zoom.

After the 60-minute workout, Lippert knows class participants are fatigued. Despite the tiredness, he said they recognize the value of the exercises that are meant to strengthen muscles and help with mobility. His routine includes everything from marching in place to stretching and doing squats with weights in hands.

“The group of people here at H-F, they have to have something really important going on not to come to that class. They keep bringing friends,” he said.

Dee Jackson of Flossmoor has been coming to the class since January, although she’s been doing yoga for some time.

“I enjoy the movement he does, and I enjoy the interactions.”

Lippert also offers insights on how to keep up with his exercises outside of the session.

“My talk to them is when you’re home avoid sitting back on the chair, sit forward on the chair so you can support yourself with those muscles when you’re not in class,” Lippert explains. “If you’re sitting at the kitchen table, don’t rest your forearms on the table. That does the same thing. Eventually, you won’t even think twice about using your chair.”

“Mobility is really important, and I’ll also do squats. A lot of people have knee issues, a lot of people have hip issues, a lot of people have shoulder issues, from aging. The only way to keep all of those chronic issues from becoming more chronic is to use them,” Lippert said.

Pick up a racquet
John Morris III, racquet sports supervisor, is developing new programs around seniors. He has a Sets & The City program for tennis players over 55 that meets Mondays and Thursdays, and a Coffee Cake & Tennis program on Fridays. Both are centered on the game of tennis, but Morris is anxious to give the players a chance to socialize afterward.

Morris jokes, “You have to qualify to be part of this class, you have to be 55. It’s nice to have a program that’s dedicated to our seniors because a lot of times when they’re playing with younger players the ball is hit too strong and they get blown away. (That’s) not competitive. I think senior play can be competitive.”

“I think getting together and talking about tennis, about what’s going on in the club and finally about what’s going on in their community, I think it enriches everyone who’s there,” Morris said.

Carole Betancourt of Homewood came to the racquet club nine years ago for tennis lessons. These days she’s a regular on the court three days a week participating in both Sets & The City and Coffee Cake & Tennis groups, enjoying both groups.

Morris has organized the Southern District Pickleball League for those 40+ meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Seniors are generally in the beginning section, but can move into the intermediate level when they feel comfortable. He is delighted with the success of that new program begun in August. It has grown from about 24 to more than 60 players in a matter of weeks.

“We have three courts, they walk in and hear the music and watch the pickleball going back and forth and they just say ‘Wow! What an experience.’ And to have all three levels going at once, beginning, intermediate and advanced, they get a chance to play and sit and watch,” Morris said.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport, but he adds a word. “I think it’s the fastest growing community sport,” Morris said. “Now our seniors are getting together more, talking about their lives more and I think it’s added to their lives. No one wants to feel alone, and it’s necessary to keep our seniors moving.”

Spares and strikes
The park district sponsors a Tuesday morning bowling league for adults. This is not a competitive league. There’s no prize money, just recognition to the top bowlers at a pizza banquet at the end of the 10-week session. Each session starts with treats and coffee before the three games are rolled. Participants say it’s a fun way to get out and get some exercise.

Follow along with line dancing
The 90-minute line dancing program offered with instructor Ginny Coppess has been a staple on Mondays at the Irwin Center for the past six years. Participants are generally women in their 50s and older. They come for the camaraderie and the exercise. Some among the group of 20 to 25 regulars will socialize or go out to lunch after the session.

Coppess said the group isn’t a beginner class, but she has had beginners join. If they catch on, they stay and graduate into the group of regulars who are intermediate to experienced dancers.

At 88, Luvenia Sykes is the oldest member of the group. She’s been there dancing since the beginning, she says. Her daughter enrolled her to get her up and moving. She’s also participating in activities at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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