“When you don’t work anymore, you need familiar faces,” says Cathy Quinn, a retired nursing home worker, sitting in the Madison Area YMCA’s lobby athletically dressed in black leggings and a beautiful bright coral tank top that matches her lipstick. “I treat the Y like a country club,” says the fit and trim Harding resident. “From a social aspect, at this point in my life, it’s probably more important than exercise.”

And she is probably right. “It’s important that seniors are in a community that support and engage them physically and mentally,” says Madison Area YMCA Senior Director of Healthy Living Joe Gonsalves, who oversees a robust active older adult program. “Besides the variety of classes that include Senior Fitness, Senior Water Works, Aqua Fit, T'ai Chi and Qi Gong which are specifically designed to be gentle yet challenging, we offer social engagement activities.”

Cathy has been a member of the Madison Area YMCA for 15 years. You can find her three mornings a week taking senior fitness classes and doing circuit training in the fitness center. She’s also participated in the swimming program. “It gives structure to my life,” Cathy says, noting that when she was about to retire from the former Kings James Care Center, now Chatham Hills Subacute Care Center, she was concerned with filling the gap of free time that she would have. But she didn’t have to worry about that.

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“My best friends are at the Y. This is where I met them,” she says, noting that together they attend lots of social activities and parties that include book clubs, teas, knitting gatherings and movie afternoons. Almost on cue, Cathy’s friend, Joan, enters the Y and sits down for a quick chat. The women discuss how summer is going, the beach, Joan’s most recent getaway and then they agree on future dinner plans. “It’s keeping us out of the rocking chair,” quips Joan.

“I also use the Y for my own rehab,” laughs Cathy, who has arthritis. The Y’s Enhance Fitness program isdeemed particularly safe and effective for older adults living with arthritis and is listed as a recommended arthritis intervention by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A two-time cancer survivor, Cathy also participated in LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a cancer survivors’ program. She especially liked the camaraderie. “I liked talking to others that were going through the same things as me. The social piece and the nutrition lectures that I attended were great. LIVESTRONG was beneficial from a physical and mental aspect,” she says.

A bonus for Cathy when she visits the Y: She sees the children of residents that she had cared for at the nursing home. “It’s nice. Just really nice.”

It’s all about community.