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Want to Know How to Age Gracefully? These Seniors Can Show You How Easy It Is

Channel Islands YMCA programs offer a range of options for getting and staying in shape — for every age

By Nicki Marmelzat for Channel Islands YMCA |

Senior health and fitness is much talked about these days as lifespan increases around the world. Physical fitness is important to everyone, but it is extremely vital to the well-being of seniors. Research shows that an active lifestyle improves strength, balance, flexibility and endurance, all of which are critical to maintaining quality of life as we age.

Despite this growing body of evidence, many seniors are hesitant to get started. With the hope of inspiring you to take the first step toward improved health, we share with you the stories and philosophies of actual Channel Islands YMCA members — your fellow community members — on their journeys toward an active lifestyle.

Marian and George Silva, Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA, Santa Ynez

For Marian and George Silva, who are in their 70s, staying fit has always been a part of their lives. They moved to Santa Barbara County in 1978 and have been married for almost 30 years. They have belonged to Santa Ynez’s Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA for nine years, and they attend a Functional Fitness Class three times a week. On one of those days, George volunteers his time to instruct the class, which he has been doing for five years.

The Silvas have a refreshing philosophy on how to stay fit and adhere to their exercise program. They firmly believe that part of being healthy and happy is to exercise with friends and develop relationships.

“The magic of belonging to an organized class motivates you,” said George. “It imposes a nice obligation. You feel compelled to participate.”

The Silvas agree that joining a group of other active older adults will not only keep you in shape, but create friendships where people really care about each other. Your workout buddies will actually notice when you don’t show up for your workout. You may even get a call!

Rae Beebe's commitment to yoga has changed her life, and now the 82-year-old is a yoga instructor at the Ventura Family YMCA.
Rae Beebe’s commitment to yoga has changed her life, and now the 82-year-old is a yoga instructor at the Ventura Family YMCA. (Channel Islands YMCA photo)

Rae Beebe, Ventura Family YMCA

Rae Beebe, at 82 years of age, is a yoga instructor at the Ventura Family YMCA. Her wellness journey began some 16 years ago when she had an evaluation of her physical condition that showed her lack of flexibility. She passed in aerobic fitness and strength, but practically failed in flexibility. She decided yoga was what was missing in her fitness routine.

With that, Rae began taking yoga classes and, six years later, she completed her instructor training. She has been teaching yoga once a week at the Ventura Family YMCA for almost 10 years, and she continues to be an inspiration and role model to all members, including fellow seniors. Rae continues faithfully with her own exercise routine, which includes swimming and weight training, as well as daily yoga classes.

When asked what advice she would give to others, Rae said, “People often concentrate on one aspect of fitness, perhaps cardio or weight training. Although these are very important elements, yoga develops the ability to move freely, which often prevents injury. It is a definite asset in maintaining a youthful body.”

When he's not golfing, Alfred Hunt, 97, can be found three times a week exercising at the Lompoc Family YMCA.
When he’s not golfing, Alfred Hunt, 97, can be found three times a week exercising at the Lompoc Family YMCA. (Channel Islands YMCA photo)

Alfred L. Hunt, Lompoc Family YMCA

Born in 1913, Alfred Hunt was married for 68 years, has served as a Navy lieutenant, worked as a management consultant and authored two books. He has been golfing for more than 50 years and has shot his age and a hole in one!

Now retired and living in Lompoc, he has been a member of the Lompoc Family YMCA for almost five years and, at 97 years old, he still works out three times a week.

When asked about his YMCA membership he said, “I look forward to coming to the Y for a very long time. It helps me stay 97 years young!”

From maintaining mobility, to preventing injury and disease, to warding off depression, the benefits of exercise at any age are abundant, and the good news is it’s never too late to get started. Click here for more information on Channel Islands YMCA programs and support available to help you get started, or visit your local YMCA branch:

» Camarillo Family YMCA, 3111 Village at the Park Drive, 805.484.0423

» Lompoc Family YMCA, 201 W. College Ave., 805.736.3483

» Montecito Family YMCA, 591 Santa Rosa Lane, 805.969.3288

» Santa Barbara Family YMCA, 36 Hitchcock Way, 805.687.7727

» Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA, 900 N. Refugio Road, Santa Ynez, 805.686.2037

» Ventura Family YMCA, 3760 Telegraph Road, 805.642.2131

— Nicki Marmelzat works at the Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA in Santa Ynez.

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