Bringing healthy aging to the community

Jo Ann Johnston // Western NewsJackie Lutz, 83, and Georgina Wadsworth, 90, attend exercise classes at Western’s Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging to minimize disease and maximize their independence.

Meet Georgina Wadsworth – 90 years strong.

She is one of 500 Londoners who stays limber, mobile and active by participating in fitness classes available three times a week at Western’s Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging. Wadsworth attributes at least some of her health and longevity to Western.

A Western alumna , who earned her BA (Hons) in Classical Studies in 1995 and her MA in Classics in 1998 after her daughter left for university, Wadsworth is a walking, running, weightlifting testament to the benefits of exercise.

“I’ve been active all my life,” she said. “But I’ve been coming to the centre for the last 10 years because exercise is critical for older people like me. I wore out three Jane Fonda video tapes working out at home when my daughter was young and now that I’m 90, I’ve got to keep moving.”

For three decades, the centre has promoted active, healthy lifestyles through combined fitness classes, strength and balance training. Shannon Belfry, project co-ordinator at the centre emphasized the importance of activity in minimizing chronic disease and maximizing physical function, independence and life expectancy as we age.

“There’s great personal reward in seeing participants gaining strength and endurance through our classes and, as a result, maintaining or improving their quality of life,” Belfry said.

As a result of efforts such as this, Canadians – like Wadsworth and her friends – have among the highest life expectancies in the world.

A Canadian a man who is 65 years old today can expect to live another 17 years; a 65-year-old Canadian woman could live 21 more years, Statistics Canada data suggest. But only a dozen of those additional years will be in good health. The rest will likely be fraught with health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis. The Centre for Activity and Aging aims to improve those odds and maintain good health or improve poor health.

Applied research from Western’s School of Kinesiology in the Faculty of Health Sciences forms the basis of the centre’s exercise programs, which can be tailored to individuals with specific heath needs.

Wadsworth said the program instructors, who develop the classes to her abilities and synchronize everything to music, keep her coming back every week.

“The instructors at the centre are amazing, and so are the participants. Exercising at the centre is really a social event. If you miss a few classes, you know someone is going to call to see where you’ve been and when you’re coming back.”