Actively aging. What does that mean to you? As the executive director of Active Aging, I often wear shirts with our logo and inevitably someone will ask me if I am actively aging.

I always smile and say, “I sure am, and it sure beats the alternative.”

If you aren’t actively aging, then I would suggest you either check your pulse or get engaged in your active future.

Numerous studies show strong indications that social supports are essential for maintaining both your physical and mental health.

EngAGED, the National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults, is currently working to develop a national strategy to educate and inform agencies, like Active Aging, on how best to develop programming and social engagement for older adults.

Much of the research cited by engAGED focuses on how social engagement contributes to better physical, mental and emotional health in older adults and how those living in rural communities often struggle with loneliness and social isolation.

This isn’t a new concept to those of us at Active Aging. We have seen firsthand in our own communities how loneliness and isolation can lead to depression, which can often manifest in physical ailments.

So what can we do about that?

Get out and do something! Sometimes that is easier said than done and all of us feel a bit of dread at the thought of going outside our comfort zone. When I first moved to the Meadville area, I really only knew the people I worked with. My sons were both growing up and involved in their own lives, and I spent my time either at work or at home.

Realizing that this was certainly not the way to meet new people and impact my own life, I decided to join the local YMCA. I started going to classes, meeting new people and becoming more physically fit. Now, six years later, I can’t tell you how much of a difference that one decision made in my life. I’ve been blessed to develop some wonderful friendships as well as a whole new commitment to my own health. All because I decided to step outside my comfort zone.

Active Aging has three “Active Aging Centers” in our county. One in Linesville, one in Meadville and another one in Cambridge Springs. You may have noticed that we recently made some significant changes to our building in Meadville. If you have only seen those changes from the outside, I urge you to check out the inside. This is not your stereotypical “senior center” and that is completely by design.

We set out to reimagine what the future of actively aging meant, we engaged various groups of stakeholders and we put it into motion. The results are pretty great. We have a new fitness center, with space for various classes (Zumba, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Silver Sneakers, Circuit training, chair fitness, and yoga) of all fitness levels, as well as machines (treadmills, elliptical, and bikes), as well as weights.

Exercise at your pace, in your space. We have a dance studio, featuring dance classes. We have an art room and computer lab, with classes and free time in both. Our main room has been completely renovated to include a fire place and a library with comfortable seating. We’ve also added to our meal options. Our funding requires that we provide a meal that meets certain nutritional criteria, but now we can offer options. The grab and go section has salads and wraps as well other convenient snacks.

We did all of this for one reason. We want older adults to see something different and give it a chance. We don’t want anyone in our community to suffer from loneliness or isolation. It just isn’t necessary.

Call us, stop in and check us out on Facebook. See what we have to offer and take a chance on impacting your own life and maybe even someone else’s.

Krista Geer is executive director of Active Aging Inc.

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