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Getting younger every day

Healthy living is easy at Peabody community

Created date

August 29th, 2017
Monica McIntyre (left) and Karen Tormey met in a balance class at Brooksby, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass. They both overcame health obstacles to compete in the 2017 Brooksby Village Marathon.

Monica McIntyre (left) and Karen Tormey met in a balance class at Brooksby, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass. They both overcame health obstacles to compete in the 2017 Brooksby Village Marathon.


When Monica McIntyre and Karen Tormey crossed the finish line at the sixteenth annual Brooksby Village Marathon, it was a moment they couldn’t have envisioned even six months earlier.

“It was a great feeling,” says Monica. “I texted all my kids that I’d finished the marathon, and my phone kept pinging with ‘Good job, Mom.’”

Brooksby’s marathon is a one-mile course that stretches within the 90-acre campus in Peabody, Mass. This year, 65 residents and staff participated.

“The Brooksby Village Marathon runs the same time as the Boston Marathon,” says Fitness Manager Rokia Paone. “We recreate some of Boston’s monumental landmarks like Heartbreak Hill and the Citgo sign.”

What’s remarkable about Karen and Monica’s story is the journey that led them to the finish line.

Hampered by health concerns

Karen moved to Brooksby with her husband Steve from Pittsburgh, Pa., in fall 2015. 

“I have rheumatoid arthritis and controlled it with medication for ten years before the medication stopped working,” says Karen. “My arthritis got so bad that I couldn’t dress myself or walk any farther than the bed to my lift chair.”

Steve and Karen considered care options and began looking at retirement communities.

“We looked at Brooksby because it was close to Beverly, where we both grew up,” says Karen. “The more we learned about Brooksby, the more we realized there were many activities I could enjoy even with limited mobility.”

Emphasis on wellness

At Brooksby, wellness is woven into every aspect of community life. On-site amenities include a fitness center; all-season swimming pool; medical center; and abundant outdoor space for hiking, gardening, or playing horseshoes. Climate-controlled walkways connect every building, so residents can walk throughout the community in inclement weather.

“Brooksby community members have many wonderful opportunities to stay active,” says Paone. “They can participate in our group exercise classes, use the trails around campus, work out in our fitness center, or swim in the pool. There’s something for everyone.”

In addition, Brooksby’s continuing care neighborhood offers assisted living, memory care, post-acute nursing care, and outpatient therapy services.

Karen started physical therapy as soon as she arrived at Brooksby.

“I’m doing wonderfully,” she says. “There are so many activities at Brooksby to encourage wellness. I started taking fitness classes offered on campus and signed up for the balance class in late 2016.”

Brooksby’s fitness center employs three full-time fitness specialists and one part-time specialist who offer more than 30 classes each week.

Encouraged to stay active

Monica McIntyre moved to Brooksby from Malden in 2007. She, too, had physical limitations when she moved. 

“I’ve had both hips and knees replaced,” says Monica. “Then I fell a few years ago and crushed my kneecap. I did physical therapy at the hospital, and the therapist told me I needed to continue to work out once I returned to Brooksby. That’s when I started using the fitness center.”

The more Monica visited the fitness center, the more encouraged she felt to stay active.

“I saw other residents working one-on-one with the fitness specialists, so I signed up for personal training with Lisa [Kirshon, one of Brooksby’s fitness specialists],” says Monica. “During one of our sessions, Lisa suggested I’d benefit from taking the balance class. I signed up, and that’s where I met Karen.”

Brooksby’s balance class meets twice weekly and runs in six-week sessions. Space is limited to six community members working with three fitness specialists for personal attention.

Friendship blooms through shared experience

“Monica and I didn’t know each other prior to the class, but we were both about the same fitness level,” says Karen. “We were each glad for the other.”

Both Karen and Monica say the balance class challenged them to try exercises they wouldn’t have attempted on their own.

“It took a lot of courage to do what the trainers asked of us, like marching backward with our eyes closed,” says Monica. “They were always right there beside us, cheering us on. I did things I never thought I’d be able to do, but they built us up gradually.”

The class was a success.  

“We know our balance improved because the staff assessed us on the first day of class and gave us the same assessment on the last day of class,” says Karen. “We measured our progress.”

In addition to their renewed stability, Monica and Karen gained something else—a gentle nudge to participate in the Brooksby Village Marathon.

“The staff encouraged us to try it,” says Monica. “I wasn’t sure I could do it, but when Karen signed up, I decided to go for it.”

On the day of the marathon, residents and staff lined the course to cheer on the participants. 

“Brooksby is such a social and energetic community, bringing fun into fitness,” says Paone.

Although Karen and Monica were behind the marathon frontrunners, spectators remained at their posts, cheering and encouraging the women along the way.

“There was a huge crowd gathered at the finish line,” says Monica. “Brooksby staff put the ribbon across the finish line for every participant. When I walked through the ribbon, I felt like I’d just won the Boston Marathon. It was incredible.”

‘On the path of healthy living’

Both women say the sense of satisfaction they felt in completing the marathon stayed with them long after the race.

“It was a game changer,” says Monica. “Now that I know I can walk a mile, all sorts of activities have opened up to me. I can go to the park. I can go to the mall. When you don’t know how far you can walk, you hesitate to walk somewhere because you might get stuck and not be able to walk back. Now I know I can do more.”

As for Karen, she says the best thing she can do for herself is keep up her exercise routine. She currently takes weekly fitness classes, including Sit and Be Fit and Chair Strength Fundamentals.

“I’m in much better shape than when I first came to Brooksby,” says Karen. “The fitness staff cheers me on. I’m motivated to keep on the path of healthy living.”