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Bethlen Communities teams up with SilverSneakers Fitness

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Cami diBattista | for Trib Total Media
Linda and Gary Steffey of Ligonier enjoy exercising together in the cardio room at the Graceful Aging Wellness Center.
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Cami diBattista | for Trib Total Media
Polly Benning director of development at Bethlen Communities (left) and Cathy Graham director of the Graceful Aging Wellness Center, both of Ligonier, discuss the benefits of leading a balanced life, which was Graham's intention when she opened the center in May.

A good life is one that is balanced in all aspects — body, mind and spirit. It is with these attributes in mind that the Graceful Aging Wellness Center at Bethlen Communities came to be — a center focused on encouraging aging adults to pursuit and maintain optimum health.

“We are a lifelong learning center that supports well-being by educating adults about continuing care,” said Cathy Graham of Ligonier the facility’s director. “The center focuses on programming for actively aging adults who want to live well.”

Graham and Melissa Marasia, the center’s lead fitness instructor, opened the Graceful Aging Wellness Center in May to encourage adults from all walks of life to live a more balanced lifestyle by utilizing the “7 Dimensions of Wellness: Social, Emotional, Spiritual, Environmental, Occupational, Intellectual and Physical.”

Anyone living in the Ligonier Valley, or surrounding communities, age 50 or older is welcome to participate in activities at the wellness center, which is located in the Heritage Center of Bethlen Communities.

“The wellness center is a good match with Bethlen Communities,” said Polly Benning director of Development at Bethlen Communities. “We’re here to help seniors live more meaningful and independent lives and embrace a spirit for living. The wellness center strives for that goal as well.”

Opportunities for physical activity, classes that focus on computer skills and electronics, and meditation and socialization are among the experiences offered to stimulate an individual’s whole being.

Additional classes address proper nutrition and creative, intellectually stimulating activities to keep the mind healthy.

“Classes are fun and liberating and help nurture the whole person,” said Graham. “It’s all about learning to live well and lead an active life.”

Graham said while other facilities may be geared more toward families or a younger crowd, members of the wellness center say they enjoy working and learning within their own peer group.

“They like working with others who are sharing the same life experiences that they are,” said Graham.

The center recently began to include “Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness and Silver and Fit” health plan benefits included in many insurance companies that will defray membership costs for those participating.

Individual membership is $35 per month, joint membership for two is $50.

More than 220 participants are currently enrolled in the program.

“Being at the wellness center is about celebrating the everyday moments that make up life,” said Marasia, certified senior fitness instructor. “We get as much out of being here as the members do. To get to know them on a deeper lever and watch their steady progress is very rewarding.”

Upon joining, member fill out a wellness assessment form to help the staff determine which areas in an individual’s life need the most focus.

The exercise portion of the facility includes daily classes such as Yoga and Tai Chi, that focus on balance and stability, and equipment for cardio and weight-lifting.

“It was very important to me that we have comfortable, user-friendly equipment here,” said Graham, who chose machines that can be specifically geared towards aging adults, whose range of motion may prevent them from performing certain exercises.

Graham, a certified wellness coach for more than 10 years, developed the Graceful Aging Wellness Center as a way to thank the Ligonier community that supported her during her a battle with breast cancer in 2008.

“When I was sick, I got so much help from the community and a lot of the people who helped out my daughter and I were seniors,” Graham recalled. “We’re so lucky to live in a grateful community and I just wanted to give back.”

Graham said she developed the wellness center in an effort to help the baby boomer community live every single moment as beautifully and vibrantly as possible.

“The center is the latest in Bethlen Community’s holistic approach to the aging process,” said the Rev. Imre Bertalan, executive director of Bethlen Community. “We feel that it is a great fit for us.”

Carolyn Worrall of Ligonier has been attending the center since summer. “I love it here,” she said. “The equipment is all new and clean, it’s never crowded and the atmosphere is so pleasant.”

Worrall said Graham and Marasia keep the programs fresh and exciting, always offering new alternatives and ideas.

Members Linda and Gary Steffey said working out together has become a sort of date for the two of them.

“Linda has spent years taking of me and our family,” said Gary Steffey. “Now it’s time for her to take care of herself.”

Linda Steffey said she enjoys all the classes offered at the center and would definitely recommend attending the Graceful Aging Wellness Center.

“We look forward to offering many different types of programs to the community in the future,” said Louis Medgyski chairman of the board at Heritage Center.

Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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