Seniors Gym celebrates 20 years of clients’ movement, mobility and well-being

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(Left to right) Renee England, Saviour Buhagiar, Sue Bidwell, Josie Clements, Barry Bidwell, Elly Williams, Lisa Grant and Keith Morgan at Friday’s celebration. [Source: Supplied]

Older gym clients and staff of Uniting’s Seniors Gym gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary celebration with a gathering of almost 100 people. 

On Friday, more than 90 older people gathered to celebrate the significant milestone for one of Uniting’s nine seniors’ gyms alongside staff at Audrey Hawkins Community Centre, the home of Uniting’s first dedicated gym for seniors. 

At the celebration, long-serving Seniors Gym clients from Lilyfield and Waverley received awards and the gym’s most loyal clients – Sue and Barry Bidwell who have attended for almost 20 years – had the honours of cutting the celebratory cake.  

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Celebratory cake. [Source: Supplied]

Barry, 83, and Sue, 78, wouldn’t miss their weekly gym sessions for anything. 

“It really is more than just a gym, you feel healthier and fitter but also the staff and the [exercise physiology] students here become like your extended family, and they are attuned to what’s best for you, we love it.”

“We’ve been coming here for 19 years, and we love it,” said Sue. 

For 79-year-old Barbara Hale, who joined the Seniors Gym at Westmead in 2021 with her husband Warwick, the gym has given her life-changing results. From finding it painful to get around due to osteoarthritis in her spine, Barbara can now walk up to 10,000 steps a day and has also recently taken up yoga.

“Neither of those achievements would have been possible without going to the Seniors Gym regularly. It really has made a world of difference,” she said. 

Uniting was one of the first organisations to provide a hybrid allied health and gym model for older people in a bid to get them moving and improve their quality of life. 

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Uniting’s Seniors Gym employees at the celebration. [Source: Supplied]

Former Uniting Seniors Gyms employee Nathan Hall, who helped establish the seniors gym model back in 2003, said its success has been driven not just by the dedication of staff, but also by the sense of community the gyms provide. 

“Back in the day exercises and rehabilitation mostly took place in the residential aged care setting, so bringing that out into a more public setting meant communities were formed and long-term friendships and the flow-on effect of that has been to keep people happier and more motivated and more connected,” Mr Hall explained.  

“They’re all living their best lives and to come back and see all these wonderful people after having left in 2019 is absolutely wonderful and really heartening.”

Seniors Services Director Saviour Buhagiar confirmed retirement living and home care, re-enablement and well-being are “absolutely critical if we’re going to get it right and support older people better to live their best lives as healthily and independent as possible, and our network of seniors gyms is a great example of how we will achieve that.”

Keeping fit and healthy in your senior years can also help to improve mental health, delay the onset of dementia and, of course, provide the opportunity to regularly socialise with other people.

Michael Wight was 64 when he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer 16 years ago and was told by his specialist that resistance training would help to strengthen his bones after treatment. After attending Lilyfield for six years, Mr Wight’s bone density is fine. 

Uniting currently has more than 2,000 clients across its nine gyms at Lilyfield, Westmead, Beverley Hills, Waverley War Memorial Hospital, Normanhurst, Chatswood, Gerringong, Orange and Gordon in the ACT. A tenth gym will open in Leichhardt at the end of the year to address the 654 people currently on a waiting list for a vacancy. 

For information on joining the Uniting Seniors Gym please call 1800 864 846 or visit the Uniting Seniors Gyms website here.

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