Exercise Class

Source of photo: Medical News Today


“I’m in an exercise class!” my Mom announces excitedly one day, as we chat on the phone. “Do you want to come and see it?”

Mom is 84. She uses a walker to get around; she has mild dementia and lately, she’s been sleeping a lot.

Until my stepfather’s health began to fail, my mother was an active woman. She was one of those energetic people who have little patience for the people who can’t keep up; the people who have showed signs of slowing down. She gardened. She delivered Meals on Wheels. She took line-dancing classes. She was always going to ‘this’ sale or ‘that’ event with friends. Right up until bedtime, she was always puttering about the house: cleaning this, organising that. She never stopped: it could be exhausting, just watching her. My sister and I used to joke that she would end up burying both of us and would still be going strong at our funerals.

Mom fell madly in love at age 69. Both widowed, she and my stepfather met at a dance. Mom has told me she never danced with anyone who could dance the way Charlie could (and my own Dad was no slouch when it came to dancing). My stepfather quite literally swept our mother off her feet. For a few precious years, Mom and Charlie only had eyes for one another. They showed no signs of slowing down.

Until they did slow down.

I guess no one expects their parents to get old, and it took my sister and me by surprise. Charlie was the first to fail: his memory began to stutter to a stop; his speech stalled and eventually stopped altogether; he began having difficulty doing puzzles (something he and Mom enjoyed immensely); he was no longer able to use (or even recognise) the carpentry tools he had been using with great skill, for decades. Saddest of all, Charlie could no longer go out dancing.

To our dismay, when Charlie stopped being able to go out, Mom stopped too. She no longer went line dancing; no longer went out with friends. She worried constantly about Charlie and she was determined to watch over him, every minute of every day.

If he couldn’t go out, she wasn’t going either.

It was a gradual thing, but we started noticing that Mom’s memory was also failing. She developed aches and pains. She started using Charlie’s walker (and absentmindedly leaving it in other rooms) until we realised, she needed one herself. She eventually made the decision – for both of them – that their needs would be best served in a seniors’ home.

Mom and Charlie got Covid last winter and while Mom made it through, Charlie died a week later. We noticed an almost immediate difference in our mother: no longer worrying about Charlie every minute of every day, she has gradually grown stronger and more alert.

It was the exercise classes that changed everything, however. I don’t think it was an initiative of the seniors home (administrators of for-profit seniors’ homes tend to focus on the bottom line; not on the well-being of the residents) but one personal care assistant seems to have taken it upon himself to offer exercise classes to anyone on Mom’s floor who wants to participate. ‘M’ is young, handsome and a brand-new Canadian and my mother sings his praises every time we speak.

I finally got to attend an exercise class last time I visited. The ‘class’ consisted of three older ladies, including my mother; all of whom need a walker to get around and two in some pretty serious cognitive decline. All three giggled like school girls as ‘M’ and another young personal care assistant carefully placed all three ladies’ hands on a hallway guardrail and guided them as they stretched one leg, then the other; as they went up on their tiptoes and down again; as they squatted (!!!) and stretched and puffed with the exertion.

Wanting to be fully part of the experience, I joined the ladies at the guardrail and followed along with each exercise as I marveled that – with the help and guidance of their amazing personal care assistants – all three of them were doing just fine.

The squats impressed me most of all.

When the exercise class was finished, I warmly thanked “M” and the other personal care assistant and then congratulated all three ladies on a job well done. The ladies were still giggling and quite literally beaming with pride.

“Wasn’t that fun??” my Mom gushed happily, when everyone had drifted off. “And did you see all the people? To think there used to only be three of us!” (and yes, there are still just three of them; six if you include me and the two Personal Care Assistants)

My sister and I have noticed a marked difference in our Mom since she started these classes. She is more alert; she is sleeping less; she’s eating well; she’s drinking more water (something people with dementia tend to forget to do). She calls us more on the phone because she is awake more. And she is much happier than we’ve seen her in a long while.

I don’t much like exercising – never have – but I do exercise every two days, if possible. I’ve seen first-hand that stopping a busy life can have some pretty serious health consequences.

And I’ve also seen first-hand that it is never too late to start.

Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com



Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

16 thoughts on “Exercise Class”

  1. What great news. It’s funny how something as simple as a change in a routine can bring on such great changes. Loved this line: “She calls us more on the phone because she is awake more. And she is much happier than we’ve seen her in a long while.” So happy for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing!!.. growing old is not for the faint of heart but the heart will go on.. “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
    ( Maria Robinson )… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

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