Saturday June 29, 2013

ELIZABETH CONKEY

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- While the heat during the summer months can make staying active difficult for people of all ages, it is important especially for seniors to make choices to keep them both healthy and entertained.

For instance, morning walks before 9 a.m., when the sun is usually quite strong, are an excellent way to exercise before the heat becomes unbearable.

According to the American Heart Association, walking for just 30 minutes a day can reduce risk of coronary heart disease, improve blood pressure, help to maintain a healthy body weight, enhance mental well being, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

The National Institute on Aging suggests a incremental approach to walking, particularly for those who are just beginning. The latest research indicates that seniors can reap the same benefits of a 45-min walk by walking for three separate 15-minute increments.

If the thought of walking alone doesn’t appeal to you, find a friend who also enjoys walking and hit the pavement together.

The risk of heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion become greater during the summer, so it is important to drink lots of water before, during and after your walks; to apply sunscreen liberally and often; wear a hat; and to seek shade whenever possible, especially between the hours of 9 a.m.


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and noon when the sun’s rays are strongest and most harmful.

On days when it is simply too hot to walk outside, consider visiting one of the many museums in and around the Bennington area, such as the Bennington Museum, the Bennington Covered Bridge Museum, the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, the Arlington Gallery, the Main Street Museum in White River Junction, the Park-McCullough Historic House in North Bennington or the Robert Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftsbury. Often, senior discounts on admission are available.

Joining a gym is another way to stay active (and cool) during the summer months. Off the Wall in Bennington offers Silver Sneakers classes throughout the week suitable for all fitness levels.

Gardening is another excellent way to get active. With constant bending, squatting and digging, working in the garden requires more movement than you may think and can burn an average of 200 calories per hour. Unlike exercising in a gym, getting outside and gardening allows you to be in touch with nature, which can be very therapeutic.

If you don’t have the space in your own yard to garden, consider volunteering at the Vermont Veterans’ Home in their community garden.

Golfing is another fantastic means to stay active during the summer months that is both safe and low-impact. Mount Anthony Country Club Golf Course in Bennington offers early tee times to avoid the hottest hours of the day.

In the coming months, there will also be a plethora of activities for seniors to participate in at some of Bennington’s local centers and senior living facilities.

Tracy Purdy-Martin, activities coordinator at Bennington Project Independence, noted the frequent outings that BPI members can expect this summer.

"On hot days, we bring our members to Tastee-Freez and the Dairy Bar for a treat and also hold frequent ice cream socials here at the center."

Purdy-Martin and her staff also organize weekly outdoor games such as croquet and Bocce for members, as well as picnic and swimming outings at Lake Shaftsbury and Willow Park.

On Friday, BPI held a Hawaiian-themed "Friends and Family" picnic, an event that Purdy-Martin said was a fun time for all.

Fillmore Pond in Bennington will also hold outings for its residents, tentatively scheduled to occur every Wednesday. Trips will include those to local concerts at Bennington College as well as to greenhouses and gardens to purchase flowers for gardening.

In addition to these outings, Fillmore Pond will also hold daily exercise classes for their residents including Bone Builders, a light weight-bearing exercise class and chair yoga. 

According to Jennifer Hill, Fillmore Pond’s community relations director, seniors who regularly attend Bone Builders classes can expect to increase their confidence as well as their mobility, as well as decrease the likelihood of falls or disabling fractures.

The Vermont Veterans’ Home also has a full summer schedule of activities, including picnics, one of which will be held next Saturday and sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of America. Another picnic to be held on July 14 will be sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Michele Burgess, therapeutic recreation director at the Vermont Veterans’ Home, explained that they would also be organizing sporadic field trips throughout the summer for their residents.

"Some [residents] aren’t from the Bennington area so we like to bring them to different historic sites and museums," said Burgess. "This summer we’ll also be holding a catamount tour to visit all of the catamount sculptures around Bennington."

The last weekend of the summer, the Veterans Home will hold a Grandparents’ Day fishing derby at their facility’s fish pond.

Here in Bennington, the possibilities for senior summer activities are endless. Your only problem may be deciding which events will work into your schedule.

For more information about the summer activities mentioned in this article, call:

Fillmore Pond 802-447-7000

Bennington Project Independence 802-442-8136

Vermont Veterans’ Home 802-442-6353

Contact Elizabeth Conkey at econkey@benningtonbanner.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethconkey