Making fitness fun

Pioneer employee Sharon Graves is the first recipient of the Resident Life Impact Award at Brooksby Village

Created date

April 27th, 2020
Fitness Specialist Sharon Graves, seen here by pool, has been working at Brooksby Village since it opened/

Fitness Specialist Sharon Graves has been working at Brooksby Village since it opened and was the first recipient of the community’s Resident Life Impact Award.

Brooksby Village, developed and managed by Erickson Living, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and a special group of residents and staff have been part of the Peabody community since it opened.

Fitness Specialist Sharon Graves came on as one of Brooksby’s pioneer employees two decades ago, and she’s been making a difference in residents’ lives ever since.

“The quality I admire most about Sharon is the heart she has for what she does,” says Pamela Simpson, director of resident life. “She is truly passionate about fitness and our residents’ health, and she wants to make sure our residents have the best experience they can.”

To celebrate her outstanding contributions to Brooksby Village, Graves was the recipient of the first Resident Life Impact Award, established this year to recognize employees who enhance residents’ lives.

“At Erickson Living, our mission is to share our gifts to create communities that celebrate life, and we wanted to create a way to recognize and honor individuals who bring that mission to life,” says Simpson.

Growing with the community

Graves began her career at Brooksby Village as a part-time aquatic instructor.

“There were only about 20 residents who had moved in when I came to work at Brooksby,” says Graves. “I’d been in the field of aquatic exercise for about 10 years, and I was hired to develop an aquatics program.”

Graves says her first impression of Brooksby made a lasting impact.

“Everything was beautiful and brand new, of course, but the friendliness of the people stayed with me,” she says. “I came home thinking ‘they only have nice people living and working there.’”

Graves developed classes and exercises to teach in Brooksby’s indoor swimming pool, which is heated to 80 degrees year-round.

“Water exercise is beneficial in so many ways,” she says. “It’s good for conditioning and working on balance and range of motion exercises.”

Graves’s role within the fitness program has grown over the past 20 years. She currently teaches eight to ten group exercises weekly, both in the water and on land. The rest of her schedule is filled with personal training sessions. She also teaches four fitness classes each week at Tufts University.

“I’m lucky to be in the fitness industry because there’s always room to grow,” says Graves. “Brooksby ensures the fitness staff has opportunities for continuing education, which helps us keep in line with the latest research and best practices. We have a great fitness team, and each of us brings something different to the table.”

Energy and enthusiasm

Manny Kay moved to Brooksby Village in November 2010. He’s been attending personal training sessions with Graves for the past five years.

“Sharon gets you to believe you can do more than you think you can,” says Manny. “Several years ago, I faced the prospect of having to walk up a flight of stairs at a restaurant for my granddaughter’s graduation party. Whether I couldn’t do it or thought I couldn’t do it, I don’t know, but when I mentioned it to Sharon, she took me to a stairwell and showed me how to go up and down safely. It only took about 20 minutes, but it’s stayed with me ever since.”

Graves says it’s that forward progress that motivates her.

“If I can make exercise interesting and fun for our residents, they’re more likely to stick with it,” she says. “Posture, balance, and maintaining a strong core are essential, and I try to incorporate those elements into every workout.”

Manny says Graves’s enthusiasm keeps him going. 

“Her attitude and energy are inspiring,” he says. “I always go home feeling better and more energetic than when I came into the fitness center.”