Learning To Swim, In Retirement

Retirees Livia and Joseph Cheung of Branchburg take lessons at the Somerset Valley YMCA’s Bridgewater pool.

The Cheungs are taking advantage of retirement to learn a new skill - swimming.
The Cheungs are taking advantage of retirement to learn a new skill - swimming.

Learning to swim was something Livia and Joseph Cheung had always wanted to do but between their jobs and raising a family, there wasn’t time.

That is, until they retired. Twice a week now, the Branchburg couple can be found at the Somerset Valley YMCA’s Bridgewater pool taking lessons together. They progressed from John being “stiff as a board,” according to his instructor, to both confidently swimming the length of the pool.

“We wanted to be comfortable in the water and be able to enjoy swimming with our children and grandchildren,” said Livia.  “We also really like the exercise.”

Nationally, the number of older adult members at YMCAs is soaring, as active older adults redefine the notion of retirement. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of Y members ages 55-64 grew from 811,000 to 1.3 million, while the number of members over 65 jumped from 776,000 to nearly 1.5 million.

Y programs for older adults have been growing nationally to meet the needs of active seniors, and the Somerset Valley YMCA is one of many Ys that have responded to the trend.

 To expand its reach into the growing senior population, the Somerset Valley YMCA has lowered its rates for seniors, while at the same time added services and programs.

 “As people age, we feel it is vitally important that they stay active, connected and engaged,” said Valerie Giacopelli, Interim CEO for the Somerset Valley YMCA

 In Somerville, a weekly program for active older adults was introduced this year, offering different activities from book clubs to game day to knitting. “We have a lot of seniors who come to our aqua-exercise class and we saw the need to offer them more,” said Tracy Lavelle, membership director. “The program is very well attended.”

 A chair toning class geared toward older adults also was started last year in Somerville which allows muscle toning and exercise while using a chair for stability and support.

At the Hillsborough branch, a weekly water yoga program was added to the popular senior swim program, according Lisa Slover, Aquatics Director. The Y, which also has exercise classes for adults on dry land,recently partnered with Hillsborough Township to offer expanded access to programs and services for seniors in the township’s exercise program.

 In Bridgewater, exercise for active older adults includes aqua boot camp and aqua Pilates, said Johnathan White, Branch Executive Director.

 The need for programs for older adults will only grow. In 2011, the oldest baby boomers turned 65, and by 2030, 18 percent of the population will be 65, compared to 12 percent in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center.

 “At the Y, we are here to meet community needs. As the population changes, we will be looking to offer more services and programs to accommodate, our members and ensure they can continue to pursue a path to healthy lifestyle no matter what their age,” said Giacopelli.

 For a complete listing of programs offered at the Y, please visit our web site at www.ymca-sv.org.

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