MONMOUTH AND OCEAN COUNTIES:  It’s been a long and often lonely year for senior citizens. From losing family and friends to the coronavirus to enduring long periods of isolation, the pandemic has impacted older adults in unimaginable ways.

But as a wave of vaccinations among the country’s most vulnerable population has occurred, three organizations are reaching out to older adults 55 and older in central New Jersey to celebrate National Senior Health & Fitness Day® on May 26.

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, the Ocean County YMCA and Senior Citizens Activities Network (SCAN) have joined forces to bring the region’s senior citizens together in person and virtually for a special, free event dedicated to physical and mental health, injury prevention and camaraderie.

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“This is so important to us and for all of the senior citizens who have a connection to the YMCA and beyond,” said Laurie Goganzer, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County. “We know the pandemic has been very difficult for everyone, and senior citizens have experienced loss of connection like no other time in our history.”

The trio is partnering with two major hospital groups and other organizations to welcome SCAN and YMCA members and the public to the Red Bank, Freehold, Old Bridge and Toms River facilities for the special event featuring a host of activities, classes, fitness workshops, and a healthy meal. For those unable to attend in person, several programs will be offered virtually.

The event coincides with Older Americans Month, which recognizes the important role older adults play in fostering connection and engagement to build strong resilient communities. As the country begins to emerge from lockdown during the pandemic, senior citizens are being encouraged to share their experiences to find strength, emotionally and physically.

“We are hoping that our seniors can resume physical activities at the YMCA in their communities as well as safe exercise and fitness routines in their homes and outdoors,” said Peter Rosario, President and CEO of the Ocean County YMCA. “Some of our members have already returned to the YMCA and we would like to welcome others to join us.”

Statistics show inactivity increases with age, and by age 75, one in three men and one in two women engage in no physical activity. Geriatric experts say older adults show huge benefits from regular physical activity. Aside from helping seniors maintain the ability to live more independently, physical exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to the Gallop ShareCare Well-Being Index, seniors who exercise regularly are 42 percent less likely than those who don’t exercise - to report depression diagnosis.

“Area senior citizens, like those around the country, were cut off from family and friends and regular activity over the last 12 months,” said Pat Bohse, Executive Director of SCAN. “Often alone and isolated, many seniors also struggled to navigate their lives online and virtually. We are looking forward to our senior day of events because we know that community-based programs can provide so many opportunities for wellbeing for our seniors.”

The National Senior Health & Fitness Day® celebration will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A variety of classes will be offered at all four YMCA locations from deep water aerobics to Zumba and Yoga, and a seminar on injury prevention, plus “Walk, Talk and Stroll,” where everyone can have a fun and interactive walk together. A grab-and-go lunch will be provided by Fulfill on a first-come, first-served basis.

Virtual programs will include a stress management workshop, brain games, meditation, fitness and more.

“The pandemic magnified the difficulties our senior citizens experience on a normal basis,” said Goganzer. “The senior health and fitness event on May 26th is our collective opportunity to reach out to older adults and welcome them with open hearts and provide fellowship, fun and wonderful experiences in all of our facilities.”

Partnering organizations include RWJ Barnabas, CentraState Healthcare System, the VNA of Central New Jersey Community Health Center, Atlantic Physical Therapy, T-Mobile and Fulfill, which are providing additional support and information during the one-day event.

YMCAs have been a vital source for outreach, information and services throughout the pandemic, providing child care, food collection and distribution, blood drives and wellness checks on senior citizens. The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County has also provided extensive mental health services and hosts a COVID-19 vaccination and testing site at the Red Bank Family YMCA.  

SCAN shifted its extensive education programs online during the pandemic to continue meeting the needs of its members.

Advance registration for National Senior Health & Fitness Day® is required for all participants. To sign up and view the entire schedule, visit the event web page. All participants will receive a 7-day pass to SCAN and the YMCA of their choice. For more information contact info@ymcanj.org.

About YMCA of Greater Monmouth County
YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is here for all – to empower youth and teens, improve health and strengthen community. A leading nonprofit charity, the Y unites 36,000 people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds. During the pandemic, we responded to vital community needs, providing more than $735,000 in relief services. Our life-changing programs and services are anchored in 10 communities: health and wellness facilities in Freehold Township, Old Bridge and Red Bank; outdoor day camps in Millstone and Wall; a community center in Freehold Borough; counseling and social service centers in Eatontown, Matawan and Middletown; child care centers in Freehold Township, Matawan and Red Bank; and integrated in nearly 100 schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties. We’re based in Shrewsbury, NJ. Learn more at www.ymcanj.org.

About the Ocean County YMCA
At the Y, we take immense pride in our work to strengthen communities and help all of us be our best selves. We provide a place to play, to learn, to be healthy, and to give back. We believe that everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from, deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential. Everything the Y does is in service of making sure people and communities thrive. The Ocean County YMCA in Toms River features the following onsite amenities: 6,800 sq. ft. functional wellness arena, cardiovascular center, 12 lane competitive size pool with access to adult and family locker rooms, and child watch room. To learn more, visit ocymca.org.

About SCAN/Senior Citizens Activities Network
SCAN is a non-profit organization and has been keeping Seniors active, healthy, and connected Since 1988. Our diverse membership spans Monmouth and Ocean Counties and beyond and reflects the active lifestyle, vibrancy, and social networking strength of our organization. We know that education, community resources, and technology can be effectively combined to create an enriched, engaging social environment where older adults will continue to grow intellectually as well as physically and emotionally. To learn more about SCAN, please visit www.scannj.org.