SOUTH PLAINFIELD – The South Plainfield Community Pool holds Aqua Classes for senior citizens twice a week.  The first class was held on the morning of August 17 under the shade canopies in the pool and the response has been extremely positive.  The classes run from 10:15a.m. to 11a.m.  Aqua Zumba is held on Mondays, and Aqua Yoga is held on Wednesdays.   Classes are free, however, there is a $3.00 pool entrance fee.  Seniors are welcome to stay and enjoy the pool afterwards.  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the pool opens at 10a.m. for senior citizens only.  

“I love the renovations on the pool. It far exceeds my greatest expectations,” said Pat Casterline, Yoga Instructor and South Plainfield resident of 43 years.  “I especially love the sitting walls for yoga because we're going to be able to do a lot of positions on that shelf that we wouldn't have been able to do.”

“I’ve been doing the regular yoga and Zumba at the Senior Center for years,” said Patricia Michael, South Plainfield resident for over 40 years.  “With this opportunity at the community pool, it’s very refreshing.  It really helps parts of your body and it’s a great social time together.  It’s very enjoyable.” 

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Zumba, yoga and many other exercise classes were regularly offered at the Senior Center and were always filled.  Seniors say they have missed the classes they looked forward to and love the opportunity to come to the pool for aqua classes. 

“I think the classes are going great,” said Bea Kriegsman, South Plainfield resident of 49 years.  “I love them.  I’ve been going to a pool where I do some exercises, but this was so terrific.  Pat’s such a good leader for our yoga classes, and she does make it so easy for us that we enjoy it more and more every week.  The whole experience was wonderful.”

The South Plainfield Senior Center has been closed since March due to COVID-19 restrictions.  Many seniors say they miss having the center where they would socialize, participate in activities and classes, celebrate special occasions together and take days trips.

“The Senior Center is really the backbone of our social life, so missing it is to say the least, but we do try to keep in touch and help each other and encourage each other through this COVID situation, so that makes it wonderful for us,” Michaels said.  

The benefits of exercise for seniors are great, improving cardiovascular health, reducing cholesterol, building lean muscle to strength bones, and improving range of motion and flexibility.  Casterline says yoga has tremendous health benefits for seniors, and she teaches the importance of deep breathing as essential for good health.

“Yoga is so important for relaxation and breathing deeply,” Casterline said.  “I always advise my students to do deep breathing for at least five minutes every day because we often do shallow breathing. Our bodies need oxygen.  To keep our brains healthy, so we need to have oxygen.”

The water’s buoyancy reduces the effect of gravity on the body, making it ideal for seniors.  

“Water offers resistance.  Part of yoga is moving slowly and the resistance helps the muscles, not only become strong, but also flexible,” Casterline said.  “Walking in the water is a whole different thing than walking on land because you’re meeting resistance.  Your muscles are getting a little more of a workout in the water and yet it's very easy on the joints. If you do have back problems or hip issues, it's very easy on the joints.”

During the Aqua Yoga class, students moved their arms sideways and backwards and participated in various yoga postures.  

“There’s a lot of things you can do in the water that you can’t do normally because your body is more buoyant,” Casterline said.  “For instance, when you do a tree pose, you can bring your foot up a lot higher.  Not too many people can get it up high on land, but in the water, you can get it up really high and bring both of your arms up because your balance is better.  If you fall, you’re not going to hurt yourself in the water, so there're more things you can safely do in water.

Seniors say the last several months have been challenging to say the least.  They have met in each other’s backyards for small yoga classes and coffee, but it hasn’t been the same as having their beloved Senior Center open.  They say they appreciate the efforts the town has made to support them.

“South Plainfield is a great town,” Michaels said.  “I think the group is very happy.  Tree, the Director of the Senior Center, makes sure there’s a lot going on so that we’re active, and we appreciate it because she thinks of all of us.  It’s really nice.”

Council President Christine Faustini, Council Liaison for the Senior Center and Recreation Commission, says the Community Pool has added many features to make it easier for seniors to get in and out of the pool, so they can enjoy their time safely.  From a long handicap ramp with railings into the pool, zero entry for the main pool, sitting walls, stairs and ADA-compliant restrooms, the pool can accommodate all of their needs.

“I think the Community Pool is going to be a great extension of the Senior Center,” said Faustini.  “They have allotted time for seniors to come in safely before everyone else is in, so they can use the pool safely before everyone else comes in.  It’s a special time set aside just for them to exercise, take part in classes, swim laps or relax on the beach.”  

South Plainfield Recreation Director Elizabeth Yarus, and South Plainfield Senior Center Director, Tree Olano, created the Senior Aqua exercise program and hope to build on it for next year.  Seniors say they are grateful to be able to engage in the activities offered at the pool this year.  Being able to socialize with one another, exercise to enhance their health, and relax poolside is a win-win.

“South Plainfield did a phenomenal job on this pool,” Michaels said.  “The community pool is absolutely wonderful. We’re enjoying every moment here.”

“Physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, these classes help everything and it’s wonderful to be able to relax with friends on a beautiful day,” Casterline said.  “And it really is a lot of fun to be in the water.  It reminds me of when I was a kid, it's so playful and fun.  So, there is life after 80!”