"We're Not Just Sitting Around Growing Older"

posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ernie and Dwight

Ernestine Dieleman moved into Park Centre in Newton because she was recovering from health issues. She was unable to care for herself, and she needed short-term rehabilitation to help her back on her feet.

Last week, she walked into Cardinal Lanes in Newton with a group of friends, picked up a bowling ball for the first time in her life, and bowled a strike.

Ernestine – “Ernie” to her friends – is 93.

“A person never stops wanting to learn new things, and to be good at those things,” Ernestine said. And thanks to the wellness team at Park Centre, “We learn new things all the time. And we get stronger, too.”

That informal evaluation of Park Centre’s wellness program makes Alayna Bailey smile. Alayna is Park Centre’s lifestyle director, and she’s responsible for creating and implementing the community’s wellness activities.  Wellness is a focus of all WesleyLife communities, with leaders encouraging physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual wellness as keys to living purposeful, meaningful lives.

Alayna and her team are doing more than a few things right, as a full 82% of the community’s independent-living (IL) residents take part in wellness activities at Park Centre. And that translates, she said, into a happier, healthier Park Centre.

“We have programming for all our residents, and anyone who chooses to participate is welcome – everyone from IL residents to assisted living, memory support and health center residents, and our Adult Day participants,” Alayna said. “We adapt classes to the needs and abilities of our residents, as well as how they might be feeling on a given day. It’s all about their needs and what interests them.”

Fitness classes at Park Centre include various levels of Strength and Stability and Total Body Conditioning. Alayna and her team members also encourage residents to move naturally throughout the day so that fitness becomes a way of life, not just something to focus on during an hour-long class.

That philosophy resonates with Dwight Stanfield, an IL resident at Park Centre for the last six years. Dwight, 84, had been active most of his life, but by the time he moved into Park Centre, he felt his fitness level slipping.

“I walked a little, and that was all,” Dwight said. “I didn’t have a good program. When I started attending the classes, I realized quickly how good it felt to consistently be moving again. I look forward to what they teach us and encourage us to do, and I always feel great afterward.”

Great enough, that is, to keep moving long after his morning exercise class has ended. Dwight augments his workouts with walks outdoors and through the halls and tunnels of Skiff Medical Center, which is adjacent to Park Centre, and with other activities around the community.

“I don’t know if all this activity will help me stay younger, but I feel pretty good, so it can’t hurt,” he said with a chuckle.  

Ernestine, basking in her newfound bowling fame, agreed that there’s no downside to becoming or remaining active as an older adult. She’s one of the community’s success stories, having moved from skilled care to assisted living, and then to living on her own – an uncommon route for a senior living resident.

“No matter what age you are, you always want to get better, and this is the place to do that,” Ernestine said. “When you move in here, you’re not just sitting around growing older.”

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