Ken Carlson

County Pulse: Senior exercise classes in Stanislaus County saved by donations

Peggy Welch leads a Young at Heart exercise class at Gladys Lemmons Senior Center in Oakdale, Calif., on Thursday, May, 8, 2015.
Peggy Welch leads a Young at Heart exercise class at Gladys Lemmons Senior Center in Oakdale, Calif., on Thursday, May, 8, 2015.

It appears that donations have given new life to the Young at Heart senior exercise classes in the outlying communities of Stanislaus County.

Some of those classes were in danger of closing in July when the county did not renew grant funding. The exercise program is designed to build strength and prevent life-threatening falls.

Young at Heart class members from Grayson offered feedback Tuesday to county supervisors, urging them to fund the beneficial program. After a Modesto Bee report appeared online May 10, the Stanislaus Senior Foundation donated $10,000 in one-time support for Young at Heart, which is operated by the Healthy Aging Association.

The association has since received other contributions that should keep the classes open in the July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, though the nonprofit group still is working on next year’s budget, Executive Director Dianna Olsen said.

Olsen said Supervisor Bill O’Brien gave $1,000 for the exercise groups in Oakdale and Waterford. Supervisor Jim DeMartini matched that amount for classes in his district.

The association still hasn’t made up for the $20,000 grant request that was denied early this month after the program received community development grant funds for more than 10 years.

The funds helped pay for instructors, exercise equipment, health education and staff costs of running the program in Ceres, Oakdale, Turlock, Patterson, Newman, Grayson and Waterford.

The exercise program is grounded in physical therapy concepts and health science in order to improve balance for seniors. People who are interested are screened first to make sure recent surgery or health conditions don’t prevent them from doing certain exercises, Olsen said.

Olsen said class sizes range from 20 members in the smallest communities to 112 registered participants in the Oakdale class. The classes are free, but participants do drop a few bucks in the donation boxes.

“We have people who have come in walkers or wheelchairs and are now standing and walking,” Olsen noted. It costs about $165,000 to run more than 30 classes in Stanislaus County, she said.

The association plans to apply for the federal community development grant funding for the following year. The grant funding is expected to be more competitive as county government puts more focus on programs to benefit young people.

The Healthy Aging Association’s 23 exercise classes in Modesto are not affected by the recent funding issue. Those groups are funded by an Area Agency on Aging grant, combined with support from Kaiser Permanente and United Way.

Ken Carlson: (209) 578-2321