By Elayne Crecelius It is 10:15 a.m. The class starts with big stretches that resemble a yawn and a morning stretch. Quickly the stretches move into side turns to warm up the core muscles. Late coming attendees walk in and start moving chairs in order to find ones with no armrests.
The class is half an hour long, three times a week. As she prepares for the class, the instructor moves chairs to accommodate two of the class attendees.
“They tend to like these chairs the best,” said Mary Joan Tarnowski, one of the activity assistants. Tarnowski is a part time employee at St. Ann’s nursing home in Duluth, and leads the morning exercise class for those living at the facility.
“One of the ladies can’t see very well. So she sits behind her friend in order to see the stretches,” Tarnowski said.
According to Tarnowski, while some exercise classes focus on maintaining or losing weight, this particular class focuses on retaining flexibility.
“Some of them do their own walk around the building a lot; but this class is mainly about stretching,” Tarnowski said.
St. Ann’s resident Sophie Maki is 95 and used to be a regular in the exercise class of 25 students.
“They call me Super-Sassy Sophie, because I am sassy,” Maki said. “We work on legs, arms, and everything you could think of."
One day, as Maki was preparing to leave the exercise class, she fell and fractured her pelvis bone. Unable to have surgery, physical therapy was done at Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation Center to help her recover from the fall.
Maki has been weary to return to the exercise class at the nursing home since her accident.
“I am gonna start [going to the class] here again on my very own. No one is forcing me and I am looking forward to going back,” Maki said.
There are no exercises she dislikes and they’re not as strenuous as her physical therapy. Sophie said she is looking forward to returning to the class.
“Most of all I’m looking forward to being able to just do it without falling or anything; and seeing the old gang again,” Maki said.
Another St. Ann’s resident and class participant Lucille Otten, said she learned of the exercise class by announcements and flyers around the building.
“I really like the neck exercises because I have a stiff neck,” Otten said. She also agrees the exercise class is a fun way to see people and talk to others in the building.
“I feel so much better after the class. It’s a good pass time and we need that here; it gets you out of the room and meeting people,” Otten said.
Around 10:40, those in the class who can stand behind their chairs begin rising and lowering themselves on their toes. Knee bends, high knees, and a waltz-like exercise follow the calf raises. Moments later the class members swing their arms in a way that looks like they are hugging themselves. As they finish up their hugging arm swings, Tarnowski instructs them to give themselves a pat on the back
“Have a good day and thank you for coming,” Tarnowski said.