Pilot program sets safe workout hours for senior citizens

Sarah Sole
ThisWeek group
Instructor Donna Eramo leads an Aqua Fit class for seniors in various exercise routines Oct. 21 at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany, 150 W. Main St. A pilot program developed by the city of New Albany, Healthy New Albany and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Health and Fitness Center will give senior citizens 65 years and older living within New Albany city limits the opportunity to sign up to use the fitness center from 1 to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to city spokesman Scott McAfee. The program is designed to help keep them safe during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

New Albany senior citizens looking to exercise safely in a gym setting during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic have a new option, thanks to a new partnership among the city of New Albany, Healthy New Albany and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Health and Fitness Center.

The collaborative pilot program, which starts Sunday, Nov. 1, will let 30 senior citizens 65 years and older living within New Albany city limits use the fitness center in the Philip Heit Center for Health New Albany, 150 W. Main St., during specific times that correspond with focused cleaning disinfection procedures, said city spokesman Scott McAfee.

A maximum of 50 people are allowed in the fitness center at a time because of the pandemic, McAfee said.

Senior citizens participating in the pilot program would be able to use the facility from 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, along with other guests and with social-distancing policies in place, he said. 

"These maximum numbers, in addition to all the cleaning of the facility, will aid in keeping everyone safe," he said.

Workout equipment, swimming facilities and classes will be available to senior residents during those times, McAfee said.

John Paro, general manager at the fitness center, said the time slot of 1 to 4 p.m. was chosen because it is immediately after a daily cleaning at noon, and that timeframe typically draws fewer exercisers.

Staff members clean the center throughout the day, and at noon, the center will be closed for an hour Mondays through Fridays to disinfect and clean equipment, he said. Equipment will be cleaned again when the center closes, and equipment is set up to enforce social-distancing guidelines, he said.

Senior citizens participate in an Aqua Fit class Oct. 21 at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany. A pilot program developed by the city of New Albany, Healthy New Albany and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Health and Fitness Center will give senior citizens 65 years and older living within New Albany city limits the opportunity to sign up to use the fitness center from 1 to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to city spokesman Scott McAfee. The program is designed to help keep them safe during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The pilot program is open to the first 30 registrants; after that, residents will be put on a waiting list, McAfee said.

The price to participate is $40 monthly, McAfee said, but city funding originally slated for New Albany Senior Connections, the recently chosen new name for a Healthy New Albany program known as Studio 55+, will contribute $10 per month for all participants’ monthly fees. Thus, each participant will pay $30 per month, he said.

Money was left over from funds slated for New Albany Senior Connections because the pandemic has limited programs this year, McAfee said.

“The program will be reevaluated in March, but we are excited about providing this new opportunity to seniors in our community,” he said.

McAfee said the city subsidy to offset monthly costs for participants could be up to $1,500. The pilot is capped at 30 participants because of coronavirus health regulations regarding building capacity, he said.

Paro said that especially during the pandemic, providing a safe space for seniors to exercise is important.

“We’re able to provide that at the OSU health and fitness center,” he said.

Staff and members of the center all undergo a health screening and temperature check before entering the fitness center, Paro said.

The program begins Nov. 1 and concludes March 31, he said. After that, the pilot will be evaluated and feedback will be sought from participants.

Jane Rabe, who manages the New Albany Senior Connections program, told New Albany City Council members Oct. 20 that six people already had signed up for the fitness program.

She said the pilot program goes hand in hand with the mission of the Senior Connections program, which offers programs and activities designed to enhance seniors’ social, physical and mental well-being.

Rhonda Bishop (right) of Blacklick and Mary Ey of Westerville exercise in an Aqua Fit class for seniors Oct. 21 at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany. A pilot program developed by the city of New Albany, Healthy New Albany and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Health and Fitness Center will give senior citizens 65 years and older living within New Albany city limits the opportunity to sign up to use the fitness center from 1 to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to city spokesman Scott McAfee. The program is designed to help keep them safe during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Senior Connections program began in May 2019 and was focused around a weekly meetup for participants with additional events and classes, Rabe said. Sixty-four people signed up to participate.

The cost was free for New Albany residents and $25 for nonresidents, but during the pandemic, participants were not charged to participate, she said. Going forward, the cost to participate will change, but figures have not been finalized, she said. 

For more information about the pilot fitness program for senior citizens, go to newalbanyohio.org/news/2020/10/fitness-center-pilot-program-senior-discount. To learn about the New Albany Senior Connections program, go to healthynewalbany.org/studio-55.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah