Fit-4-Life Wins the 2011 NOMA Award

Article excerpt

Fit-4-Life is the 2011 ASA Network on Multicultural Aging (NOMA) Award winner (www.asaging.org/ award-excellence-multicultural-aging). The NOMA Award rewards organizations that have demonstrated high-quality, innovative programs enhancing the lives of a multicultural aging population.

As a kid, Garry Sanon was obese, but a woman in his community intervened and got him on the right track. Though he missed the chance to thank her in person, she inspired him to pursue exercise physiology as a career. Now he's the program coordinator at Fit-4-Life- a program attached to Tufts University that provides a gym experience, training and nutrition counseling to local elders for a reduced fee of $10 a month.

Sanon's original plan was to work with athletes, but when working at the Boston Sports Club he was mentored by a man working at Fit-4-Life who left to join the army, and recommended Sanon take his place. He's now so enmeshed in helping elders that his desire to work with professional athletes has disappeared.

Fit-4-Life presents Sanon with a mental challenge, because he says that for each full page in his college physiology texts, two sentences would be devoted to exercise issues for older adults. He must figure out what his clientele needs to do in their daily lives, whether it's getting in and out of cars, carrying groceries or bending to pick up items in a safe way, and builds an exercise program that will strengthen the necessary muscles.

"Society tells you that you shouldn't be trying to lift weights, but if you lift grocery bags, how much is that? You need to pick up your grandkids," Sanon says. "I want to train them to be able to sustain those activities. They need to bend, do lunges and squats. One lady said her doctor told her not to do squats, but you squat all day."

Reduce Disease, Re-Use Muscles

Fit-4-Life began in 2007, with the goal of reducing the burden of age-associated chronic disease, and providing support for healthy aging. All of Sanon's clients have at least one chronic medical condition. Some are paralyzed from the waist down, many have been sedentary for years, and what they remember doing for exercise in their past is not what they could do now. Sanon provides what he calls a "workout that fights sitting." It's his aim to "make sure they're mobilized, and they seem to like it. They're moving better, and not worried about falling."

The ages at Fit-4-Life span 57 to 92 years old. One 89-year-old came in the other day and told Sanon, "It's not that I want to tone, I just want to get stronger." Once you lose strength it's a struggle to do much of anything, and Sanon helps them get it back. Fit-4-Life is housed in Kit Clark Senior Services, the largest senior center of its kind in Boston, and its clientele is usually recommended by their personal physicians. …