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Silver Sneakers classes help woman keep up with her grandkids

Mary Solum and the rest of the Silver Sneakers aerobics class work out Monday, July 25, at the River Falls YMCA to music ranging from Celine Dion to ABBA. <i>Gretta Stark photos</i>2 / 2

Mary Solum is 66, but said she feels like she's 45.

She doesn't get backaches from bending over in her garden, and she can play with her grandsons.

"I'm able to keep up with them," said Solum, "Not many grandmas like me."

And Solum said all of this started when she retired, and started taking Silver Sneakers classes at the River Falls YMCA.

"I feel like I'm doing something good for my body," said Solum, "that maybe I'll live longer and enjoy my grandkids longer."

Vallie Ericson, 63, has osteoporosis, but said that Y Silver Sneakers classes have improved the condition.

Even though she was coming to the Y to do active older adults yoga classes, she didn't take part in Silver Sneakers classes for quite a while.

"One day I just thought, 'Oh, maybe I should try that,'" said Ericson, "Been hooked ever since."

That was around two years ago.

One of the things Ericson said got her hooked on Y Silver Sneakers classes is the camaraderie with the people in the class.

"We have a lot of fun in there," said Ericson, "I just look forward to just laughing. So you're working out and you don't realize how hard you're working because you're laughing all the time."

Silver Sneakers is a national fitness program begun by Healthways Fitness to give participants a chance to build muscular strength, joint mobility, and aerobic endurance, and to make friends.

The River Falls YMCA has had Silver Sneakers classes since Fall 2009, said Sue Nueske, Active Older Adults and Silver Sneakers coordinator.

The local Y offers muscular strength and range of movement and cardio circuit Silver Sneakers classes.

People who are Silver Sneakers participants, like Solum, don't have to pay for the classes, because their insurance covers it, but any Y member can take a Silver Sneakers class no matter their age or insurance policy.

Some of the members of the class, like Ericson, were Y members first, before they started doing Silver Sneakers classes.

And Y Silver Sneakers classes are not the only classes the Y has to offer older adults. For example, there's the active older adults yoga class Ericson still attends every Wednesday.

Although it is geared toward older adults, the yoga class and the Y Silver Sneakers classes are open to any Y member that wants to take the class.

While Ericson said yoga is her "first love" of YMCA classes, it is her instructor Roxie VanDeWater that makes Y Silver Sneakers classes special.

"She makes it," said Ericson, of her instructor. "She's tremendous."

Solum agrees, saying VanDeWater is the reason for the camaraderie in the Y Silver Sneakers classes she attends.

"We are a close-knit family," said Solum, "and that's all because of Roxi."

Solum has lived in River Falls for 40 years, but didn't really start working out until after she retired. When she was working, Solum said she commuted to the Twin Cities, and it was hard for her to work out when she had to drive that far to work.

"Now this is my new job, coming to the Y," said Solum. "No more excuses."

And since she's begun working out at the River Falls Y, with the Y Silver Sneakers classes as well as body pump and step classes, Solum said the aches she used to feel after a weekend of gardening are gone.

"Nothing hurts anymore," said Solum, "Nothing bothers me, because my body's strong. It just makes my life so wonderful."

Ericson is another longtime River Falls resident. She graduated from UW-River Falls in 1970, got married in 1973 and lived in River Falls until 1984, and moved back in 2006, because her relatives lived here.

Ericson said starting Y Silver Sneakers classes has helped her, and she hopes other people will consider taking the classes.

"Just come and give it a try," said Ericson, "and see how fun it is."

For more information about Y Silver Sneakers classes or other YMCA classes, contact Neuske at 651-259-9646 or call the Y at 715-425-9778.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048