Seniors Gymnastics for Flexibility and Fun

By Ameeta Vohra



SaltWire Network


In September 2021, Diana Mabbett wanted a new challenge. She looked toward gymnastics. It has played a significant role in her family’s life as her daughter grew up as a gymnast and currently works at Titans Gymnastics and Trampoline Club in Westphal. Once Mabbett signed up for the seniors gymnastics program there, she knew it was the perfect fit. “I was an RN (registered nurse), and I know the value of exercise, and it is good for your whole body,” she says. “I thought it was a great way to exercise. As seniors, we sometimes don’t get enough exercise, and I find I’m not as motivated to go outside and take a walk. I’m better to go to an activity.” Margaret Skabar is the senior co-ordinator of the program and says several factors came into developing this program for seniors. One is the inclusiveness of the sport. Furthermore, she says, once people reach adulthood, nothing is available. “Gymnastics is a sport that we aspire to have accessible for everyone,” she says. “We found out about the New Horizons for Seniors Program, a federal program that helps develop community programming for seniors. When we learned about that program, we had a little idea and thought, ‘OK, why don’t we try to develop a program and see how it goes.’ ” Added inspiration came from the seniors Skabar has known throughout her life, including her 70-year-old father, who was a marathon runner and is unable to do that anymore. “I thought about the people in my life and the things that they’re now doing, so 70-year-olds, like what kind of movement patterns would they want to develop and maintain to age in a healthy way or to live independently for longer?” she says. “Those are the foundational blocks for the program, and we took it from there.” Each week for an hour, seniors participate in many exercises in the class. The first 15 minutes is a light warm-up to get the blood flowing. It includes dribbling, rolling, bouncing, and balancing yoga balls. After some stretching, seniors do gymnastic exercises to work on developing flexibility, mobility, and strength. Ultimately, Skabar hopes seniors get more than just exercise and healthy, active living from the classes. “I hope they are building social connection and developing a sense of community with people they might not have known otherwise because promoting social inclusion is important,” she says. “Something new and exciting is a good way to bring people together. I hope that the people in the class are having fun and enjoying being part of something they’ve never done before.” Mabbett has enjoyed her classes and hopes the gym expands its programming so more seniors can try gymnastics. “When people think of gymnastics, they think of people flipping up in the air,” she says. “Well, we’re not doing any of that. We’re doing stuff appropriate for our age. I think socialization and exercise are important.”