Seniors stay active with stretch and strength program

Cole Stefl

Twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, both male and female senior citizens make their way down dimly lit basement steps at the First Presbyterian Church to be greeted by Brandon Jones, a current NMU graduate student, who welcomes them to his Senior Stretch and Strength Program.

re-stretchclinic-csUtilizing the space of a social hall, Jones places six chairs out for each participant—all of them at least triple his age— making sure to give them enough space for a circuit of exercise that focuses on strength, stretching, and balancing while using only a chair, the surrounding walls and cans of food that are used as weights and donated later to the Salvation Army.

For approximately 30 minutes, seniors from ages 69 to 96, participate in counting-off in unison each repetition of exercises that they perform. Working the squat motion, building lower body power for getting up from the sitting position is a main component in Jones’ program.

“Muscular power is one of the main indicators of how long you’re able to stay in your house—if you can get in and out of a chair—so we really work on the squat motion,” Jones said.

In effort to give back to the Marquette community, Jones, who’s currently in his second year of a graduate assistantship program at NMU, maintains a busy schedule of attending graduate-level classes, teaching undergraduate courses, working as a personal trainer for the YMCA, to volunteering as a trainer who leads two weekly senior exercise sessions at a local church.

“[The Senior Stretch and Strength Program] is a really good opportunity to go out and educate patients,” Jones said. “I felt so welcomed by the community here at First Presbyterian that I wanted to give something back to the community and I thought this would be perfect—being a fitness major, that I could help people live a quality life.”

Jones is a semester away from getting his master’s degree in exercise and sports science with an emphasis on exercise physiology at NMU.

He has taught two sections of a 50-student class in HP 200: Health and Wellbeing, HP 258A Rock Climbing, HP 090 Senior Swimming, and HP 091 Senior Exercise.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science with an emphasis on fitness at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2013, Jones gained experience as a research assistant at the U of W La Crosse Biomechanics Lab. He then interned at the University of Wisconsin gaining experience in sports medicine, with certifications in National Sports Conditioning Association, Certified Sports Conditioning Specialist. Additionally, Jones is certified in Red Cross First Aid, CPR and AED.

The Senior Stretch and Strength program has been helping senior and elderly citizens maintain their wellbeing by actively working the full-body in a structured environment. Doug Brown, participant of the Senior Stretch and Strength Program, has been maintaining his health by staying active with programs like this one.

“I’ve been keeping what I have, and at this age, that’s really what we want to do,” Brown said.

Those who attend the sessions of the Senior Stretch and Strength Program recognize the effort put forth by Jones and Pat Pellett, a First Presbyterian Church member, said in an email.

“Brandon is so appreciated for his efforts that one student brought him an apple make that a caramel apple,” the email read.

Elizabeth Miller, who is a regular attendant of the Senior Stretch and Strength Program, has concerns of having another person lead the program if or when Jones moves on after this session of the Senior Stretch and Strength which ends Nov. 29.

“You can’t just have someone coming in off the streets because we could be doing it all wrong—hurting ourselves,” Miller said. “We need someone with at least as much information as [Jones]— which is a lot. So we’re hoping, that [Jones] stays here forever. He will not be, but we hope someone else just as good will take his place.”