Since its founding in 1844, the YMCA has been known as a popular recreational organization where young people can meet and focus on activities and classes, while honing a variety of skills. However, a YMCA in New Berlin, Wisconsin, is aiming to help older adults develop healthy lifestyles. The idea to cater to the older population came from the YMCA of Greater Waukesha County CEO Chris Becker and VP of Operations Katie Rehm, who initially wanted to make a deeper impact on their community. Shortly after assessing the needs of the population in Waukesha County, they found that the rapidly growing older adult demographic was still under-served by urban initiatives.
This YMCA built a teaching kitchen in its new, first-of-its-kind wellness center and added workout equipment designed with older adults in mind. For example, some of the machines have swiveling seats to aid older adults with mobility limitations. Specialized weight machines allow users to set separate resistance in left and right arms, and some of the cardio machines have less impact on the joints than standard cardio machines. Lastly, the flooring is padded to decrease stress on the joints.
Although this an exercise facility, the YMCA added a special touch to encourage social interaction: they incorporated a lounge area where members can sit at tables and socialize or just watch TV and relax. They also took away locker rooms and replaced them with private bathrooms to add a “homey” touch. The kitchen serves as a culinary training zone that’s attached to a conference room where older adults can listen to expert nutritional advice and learn how to provide healthy meals for themselves.
As of now, all members of the Greater Waukesha County YMCA can use the New Berlin location. Although it is new in its older adult approach, CEO Becker is not limiting these successful programs to just this location, saying that the programs may be finding their way to other Wisconsin YMCA locations.
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Riccioli, J. The new YMCA Wellness Center in New Berlin aims to help older active adults with healthy living. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. June 24, 2019. https://www.jsonline.com/story/communities/waukesha/news/new-berlin/2019/06/24/ymca-new-berlin-wellness-center-aims-help-older-adults-live-healthy/1514817001/ . Accessed August 27, 2019.