Senior centers are health and wellness spas for the 50-plus crowd

Yoga classes are a popular activity at the Westlake Center for Community Services.

I recently met with a nursing student from Cleveland State University who was given the assignment to explore a senior center and learn about how such a facility could potentially help her patients. Admittedly, she was quite surprised to learn the wide range and variety of activities, programs and services provided – and mostly how fun it all sounded. 

I asked her to describe her picture of a senior center, and she pictured what many do: a room with people just sitting around, maybe playing cards or visiting. While there are definitely card players and lots of socializing, there is also so much more. Basically, we are a health and wellness spa for seniors. Maybe if we changed our name to reflect this, more people would benefit from what some of our patrons call "the best kept secret of Westlake."

Here at the Westlake Center for Community Services, located at the corner of Center Ridge and Crocker roads, we offer yoga, tai-chi, and other exercise classes that are open to anyone. Many are specifically geared for people with arthritis or other limitations, so it is gentle exercise for those who might be too intimidated to try a gym. We also have educational offerings, special events, watercolor classes, music appreciation, movies, health classes, writing groups, chess, book discussions and so much more. 

Our business is to promote the health, wellness and happiness of our senior residents and contribute to the overall health and safety of the community. Research shows that the best way to promote active, healthy aging is with a combination of physical movement and activities that stimulate the mind. In a recent Journal on Active Aging article titled "Training the Brain," the concept of neuroplasticity is explored. This basically refers to the brain's ability to reorganize and adapt in response to changing experiences. If we train our brains as well as our bodies we can live healthier lives and better survive or prevent chronic illnesses, depression, anger and fear. 

Brain exercise is a lot like physical exercise in that repetition, sets and even overload can be a part of training. Also, with the training we actually improve our mental muscle. Here at the Westlake Center for Community Services, along with our neighboring senior centers, it is our mission to provide opportunities to exercise both the brain and the body, in a comfortable and friendly environment. 

That doesn't mean we don't occasionally challenge each other as rivals! For example, we are currently in a Senior Health Challenge competing against the North Olmsted Senior Center. This program, which was created and is coordinated by St. John Medical Center involves pre-health screenings, walking groups, some education, motivation, post-health screenings and prizes.

Come check it out for yourselves! Our monthly newsletter and calendar of events can be found on our city website,  Click on the Departments tab, click on Community Services and then click on Newsletter. Or call us for more information at 440-899-3544.

As the CSU nursing student now knows, there's a whole lot more that goes on here than card games. With all of the exercise, brain stimulation, health classes and even massage, we truly are akin to an accessible and affordable health and wellness spa, so drop in and check us out. Our staff is happy to provide impromptu tours. 

Lydia Gadd

I am the Director of the Community Services Department for the City of Westlake. I am also a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.

Read More on Senior Living
Volume 7, Issue 12, Posted 9:33 AM, 06.16.2015