ShareThis Page
North Hills

Senior citizens flock to McCandless church for exercise classes

| Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, 4:24 p.m.
Instructor Dawn Andersson leads exercises in a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct.13, 2016.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Instructor Dawn Andersson leads exercises in a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct.13, 2016.
Carole Helvig of McCandless works on balance during a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Philip G. Pavely | For the Tribune-Review
Carole Helvig of McCandless works on balance during a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Ellen Caulkins of Franklin Park, left, partners with Jan Wherthey of Franklin Park during a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Philip G. Pavely | For the Tribune-Review
Ellen Caulkins of Franklin Park, left, partners with Jan Wherthey of Franklin Park during a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Instructor Dawn Andersson leads exercises in a Healthy Start Cafe class as Nancy Swanhart of Ross, front, and Carol Huebner of West View take part at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Philip G. Pavely | For the Tribune-Review
Instructor Dawn Andersson leads exercises in a Healthy Start Cafe class as Nancy Swanhart of Ross, front, and Carol Huebner of West View take part at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Carol Huebner of West View takes part in a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Philip G. Pavely | For the Tribune-Review
Carol Huebner of West View takes part in a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Chuck Helvig of McCandless does fly exercises during a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Philip G. Pavely | For the Tribune-Review
Chuck Helvig of McCandless does fly exercises during a Healthy Start Cafe class at St. John’s Lutheran Church in McCandless, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.

Even a broken back can't keep Anne Kolicius, 92, from her senior exercise class at St. John's Lutheran Church of Highland in McCandless.

In late September, Kolicius suffered a spinal fracture after falling in her kitchen. She is managing the pain with medication, and is eager to return to her exercise class.

“I may have to wait a couple of weeks, but I already miss the fellowship. Even if I have to just sit in a chair and watch the others exercise, that's OK with me. I can sit there and still laugh and smile,” said Kolicius, of Allison Park.

St. John's Lutheran Church of Highland has offered the hour-long exercise classes to senior citizens throughout the community for nine years. Partnering with Lutheran Service Society and Passavant Hospital Foundation, St. John's Lutheran Church is striving to build a more comprehensive senior community center program, using the success of its exercise program as its foundation.

The first step was offering healthy breakfasts and social opportunities for seniors at 8:45 a.m., prior to the exercise class held every Monday and Thursday beginning at 9:45 a.m.

The program, called Healthy Start Café, is free and open to anyone age 60 or above. Registration is required, and may be completed on site during the first visit.

Additional events, activities, and offerings are in the works.

“As baby boomers age, they don't want to come play bingo. Today's seniors are more active. We can start a golf group or a cycling group and reading groups. We want to offer a wide variety of physical and mental activities,” said Terry Mann, director of Lutheran Service Society.

William Diehm, pastor of St. John's Lutheran, is excited about expanding the program at his church.

“It has become a mission of sorts. Our mission here is ‘having fun while staying young,'” he said.

Dawn Andersson, 77, is the church's director of volunteer ministries. She also is a certified fitness trainer and co-leads the senior exercise class.

“We focus on flexibility, cardio, range of motion, and balance,” she said. “But the social aspect is the biggest draw. The exercise is almost secondary in a way. The program combines friendship and exercise. It's an unbeatable combination.”

Minutes before a recent exercise class began in the church's multi-purpose room, Marie Bosco, 69, of McCandless, walked into the adjacent kitchen and was handed a freshly blended “Fountain of Youth” smoothie made with cherries, blueberries, cranberries and a touch of honey.

“I love the friendly and outgoing spirit here. Everyone cares about everyone else. You can just come and be with friends. The program started with a few church members but now attracts people beyond our church walls,” she said.

About 20 to 30 seniors currently attend each class.

Carole Helvig, 68, of McCandless is a breast cancer survivor, and attends the exercise class with her husband, Chuck, 73.

“You come and do what you can do. We like the fellowship, which is as big a part of the program as the exercise,” she said.

Lutheran Service Society, an entity of Lutheran Senior Life and a nonprofit, faith-based provider of human services, manages two other senior community centers — one in Bellevue and another in Beaver County.

Both offer meals, classes and workshops, fitness programs, and other services such as flu shots, income tax assistance and safe-driving classes, often for free.

The Bellevue center has 600 registered members and serves 50 to 80 seniors daily; the Beaver County center, located in Beaver Valley Mall in Monaca, has 10,000 members and serves about 250 seniors every day, according to Mann, 62, of McCandless.

All three senior centers are funded by county agencies on aging, the Pennsylvania Lottery and community sponsors. Donations are accepted from participants.

The Healthy Start Cafe received additional funds from Passavant Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit organization in McCandless. Foundation money is being used to purchase food supplies, tables and blenders used for making the smoothies.

“We wanted to support the start-up effort to give it the opportunity to be rooted and grow. There is no other senior center in the immediate area, and we have a large senior population,” said Fay Morgan, president of Passavant Hospital Foundation.

“My vision for the senior community center at St. John's Lutheran Church is to have a center similar to a health and social mall, where seniors can come hang out, eat at the cafe, exercise in the gym, attend classes, and visit physicians like podiatrists and eye doctors during special hours,” said Mann. “It would be a one-stop shop for seniors.”

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me