Seniors Shaping Up

One of the most debated aspects of the new health care bill is how it will affect seniors. That's because seniors tend to take more drugs and visit the doctor more than any other age group. But here in Houston, the United Way sponsors a program that aims to keep older residents healthy by making them more active. Bill Stamps explains.
Seniors Exercising"Let me see your face muscles..."

What you're hearing is a class similar to what you'll find at just about any fitness gym in the country. It's a medium sized room full of people moving to the words of the class instructor. Like most gyms, the people in the class are almost always female. What's different is these women are all in their 60's, 70's and even 80's. People like Lula Weeks who wouldn't give her age, but says her body feels like it's 20.

"Yes, I feel good, most of the time I be walking and folks always talking about 'oh if I could walk — if I could walk' and I say well sometimes a lot of folks get out there and get in that car and drive-off. They don't exercise, but you see I walk a lot."


Frankie Kelley has been teaching the class at Fifth Ward's JW Peavey Senior Center for two years. She emphasizes exercises that will help seniors with their balance. That balance control could save them trips to the hospital.

"It'll keep them from falling and breaking a hip. I actually heard that more people die from breaking a hip and going to the hospital and getting pneumonia than heart attacks or anything else with the elderly, so it's very important."


Andrew Lorino is one of the coordinators. He works for the neighborhood centers, which puts on the classes with funding from the United Way. He says seniors are the least active group and the ramifications of that are enormous.

seniors exercising"That's problematic because they are also likely to have at least two chronic conditions that being: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, those types of things. All of these conditions are either reversible, or preventable or you can lessen the severity of these conditions by altering lifestyle factors such as by getting more physical activity."

They offer the senior fitness class at about 30 locations in Houston. Lorino says they're pretty popular, but again…it's the women that are taking advantage of them. Senior Center Director Mary Mallard says they try to get the men, but so far nothing's worked.

"A lot of them will tell you, 'oh, I get exercise when I go home. I work in my yard, I do this and I do that'."

This is one of the programs the United Way of Houston is most proud of. They're helping give seniors a better quality of life…now if they could just get more men to try it.