Margo Coster, program coordinator at the Bob Gilmore Senior Center, is by nature a vivacious woman, but this morning finds her uber-exuberant. “It is absolutely, no question, life-changing,” she said.
Coster is amped about Texercise, a 10-week program from Texas A&M specifically designed for folks age 60-plus. Funded by a grant from the U.S. government, it helps seniors achieve better health through dietary education and exercise. “They (A&M) came to us, showed us their course plan, and said we’d need at least 12 participants,” Coster said. “Well, I knew it’d be no problem to get 12 of our seniors and the more I studied the (program) materials, the more excited I became.”
Each senior enrolled in Texercise filled out a survey on the first day covering their diet and physical activity, Suzanne Swierc said. A graduate student at A&M, Swierc traveled from her home in College Station to monitor the class sessions at the Gilmore Center. “An important aspect is functional mobility,” she said as participants are timed on simple activities, such as rising from a chair, walking 10 feet, turning 180 degrees, and returning to the chair. Today’s timings show a marked improvement from the first day’s scores, recorded nine weeks earlier, and that pleases Swierc. “This is a study and it’s gratifying to see things that work.”
The exercises are intended to boost physical endurance, increase strength, and improve balance. Rinska Flores from Harker Heights is a volunteer facilitator for Texercise, and stresses “the daily benefits — even toe lifts and (walking in) figure 8’s can pay off,” she said.
The south end of the Gilmore Center’s activity room is curtained off this morning, providing a buffer of sorts between the white noise of the kitchen area.
Most of the 13 people seated at tables wear Texercise T-shirts and listen intently to Flores as she explains dietary concepts and specifics on how to properly execute today’s exercises.
“They’ve improved tremendously,” she said, contrasting the students’ current level of proficiency to what it was on the first day. “And they have fun,” she added after the 25-minute exercise segment ends.
Texercise at the Gilmore Center concludes Monday. Each student will develop their own “action plan” for the next three to six months, incorporating lessons learned over the previous 10 weeks. The participants say they’re looking forward to the graduation Monday. As for the future of Texercise, at least at the Gilmore Center, it’s a bit cloudy.
“This is a government-sponsored program,” Flores said. “It’s 10 years old.” But the funds only cover this session — there is no more money for future Texercise programs at the Gilmore Center. Besides hiring instructors, expenses for each student include a snazzy, full-color, 23-page booklet, a pedometer, exercise resistance elastic band, daily log, and an instructional DVD for follow-along exercising at home. But for Coster, these are only temporary roadblocks.
After putting out several fires this morning, including a power of attorney for a woman who’s just lost her husband, Coster “I’ve just gotten a Notary to come over,” talks about Texercise. “I’m not only noticing the improvements in our seniors, but I’m feeling better myself since attending the program.” Noting that her seniors started requesting a more healthy selection of food at the Gilmore Center, “They’re asking for fruit, less fried menu items,” Coster said she’s got a plan for Texercise to continue.
“We have the A&M materials, the DVD, and resources Texercise uses,” she said, pointing to a graphic from choosemyplate.gov as an example. “With volunteer facilitators and leaders there’s no reason why we can’t keep this momentum going.” Bidding good day to her tired but happy seniors, Coster said, “This is just too good to quit.”