Forever fit

Maris Grove sees uptick in desire and commitment to fitness

Created date

August 21st, 2018
Cathie White works out at Maris Grove’s fitness center with fitness specialist Christian Mitchell.

Cathie White works out at Maris Grove’s fitness center with fitness specialist Christian Mitchell.

The toughest part of a gym workout is motivating yourself to get in the car and drive to the gym. For those who live at Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County, Pa., however, a gym is as close as a walk down the hall. 

Maris Grove boasts a fitness center in each of its three neighborhoods.

The fitness and aquatics center is in Brinton Clubhouse; a satellite gym is in Cardinal’s Meadowlark Terrace Club Room; and a third is in Redwood Commons Clubhouse.

Group exercises take place in the Club Room; water aerobics meets in the aquatics center; and community members can also exercise along with fitness center programs aired on Maris Grove’s in-house TV station.

“New residents, especially those in Redwood Commons, Maris Grove’s newest neighborhood, are coming to us with a strong desire and commitment to fitness,” says Fitness Manager John O’Donnell.

Some of them also want more intense workouts. In response, besides other strength-training equipment, Redwood Commons’ gym has a rowing machine.

Maris Grove’s staff of four also offers personal training. “There’s a growing interest from men to do that,” O’Donnell says.

Men’s Only fitness

O’Donnell would like to see more men take advantage of on-site classes, so he created one exclusively for them.

Offered twice a week, Men’s Only uses a circuit training format of 12 stations to provide upper and lower body work plus aerobics.

O’Donnell sometimes introduces unexpected exercises to work muscles in different ways.

“We’ve done boxing and shot hockey,” he says. “Men aren’t as likely to join a class as to work out on their own, but here the atmosphere is casual and like a little fraternity. They like that camaraderie.”

Dick Howarth, who moved to Maris Grove from Royersford in 2016, joined Men’s Only last year. He’s since added two more classes, chair yoga and another circuit training class to his routine.

“My goal is body tone and to maintain the strength I have,” says Dick. “My doctor told me I have a really strong heart, so I think the exercise is helping.”

Fitness walking

Bob Richmond, a former Wilmington, Del., resident, joined Men’s Only to add an upper body component to his normal fitness routine of walking up to four miles a day.

Even if he never leaves campus, Bob can log miles by walking the hallways and climate-controlled, enclosed bridges connecting Maris Grove’s residence buildings to its clubhouses.

“That’s the big draw of living here,” he says. “I’m able to walk 365 days a year even if there’s three feet of snow or ten inches of rain outside.”

Bob took up daily walking five years ago when he participated in a University of Pennsylvania study to determine if using a FitBit would motivate seniors to walk more. “In my case it did,” he says. “I’ve been using the FitBit ever since.”

Bob also moves his feet by dancing; he started Maris Grove’s square dance group. The group meets weekly from fall through spring for what amounts to fast-paced and fun aerobic workouts.

Bob also walks the unpaved trails at nearby parks such as his favorite, Beaver Valley, part of First State National Historical Park. “It’s a different, peaceful world,” he says.

Beaver Valley has one downside. To get there, Bob has to drive.

So he has a fervent wish. When Redwood Commons neighborhood is fully constructed, Bob hopes Maris Grove will develop a nonpaved walking path along the campus perimeter.

Maris Grove’s wooded glens and gently rolling terrain suggest the peacefulness of Beaver Valley. “Someday I might not be able to drive there,” says Bob, “and I would cherish having such a path right here.”

Where fitness matters

Fitness specialist Christian Mitchell is the newest staff person at Maris Grove’s fitness center.

One of his required college courses was Special Populations, groups who need extra fitness help—people like older adults, amputees, and folks with medical conditions.

Neither Mitchell nor his classmates considered the class applicable because they all planned to work with able-bodied athletes. And they told their professors that.

Still, Maris Grove was one of the places Mitchell applied to during his job hunt.

“I expected a nursing home,” he says. “It’s more like a resort. And the residents are amazing, not what I imagined either. After I started working I found that I really enjoyed it, even more so than training younger people at the Y.”

Mitchell eventually aims to become a physical therapist.

“At Maris Grove I’m doing things geared to keeping people walking and performing daily activities,” he says. “I really like seeing them make progress toward that because often they think it’s too late to improve. Then, when they see improvements it makes them feel so good, and that makes me feel happy.”

Mitchell emailed his professors to tell them how valuable the Special Populations class proved to be. They emailed back to say they’d been reviewing the curriculum and, because of student feedback, were considering dropping the course.

“But,” says Mitchell, “when they got my email saying what a good course it was, they decided to keep it.”