LA VIDA LOCAL – IRREGULAR NOTES ON WEST END LIFE
Reiche Community: A.M. Exercise, Monday Evenings Out & More
By Rosanne Graef
I hope you’ve read some of the WEN articles about Aging in Place and the establishment of the Portland Area Villages. In parallel with that effort, the West End Community Action Network Aging in Place (WECANAIP) steering committee has been establishing some hyperlocal activities and events for West Enders—especially, but not exclusively, the older crowd.
We’ve been concentrating most of our efforts on the Reiche Community Center, building upon efforts of the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) since the 2010 closure of the Reiche branch of the PPL. It’s been a long slog, that’s slowly but surely paying off.
We’ve gotten Rec Dept and Portland Adult Ed classes in yoga, tai chi chih, creative writing, and ukulele. We’ve been running the Book Nook for over six years. Also, we’ve had a Valentine’s edition of Dance Party for Everyone and more.
Most of these activities happen in the Community Room upstairs at Reiche. We’ve been making that space into a destination where folks know they can go to (at least at some regular times every day or week) and find someone there and something to do – and not have to buy or pay for anything!
Social isolation is one of the scourges of modern life in the US and many other industrialized countries.
Feeling alone in the crowd, having friends or family members move away or die, feeling separated from one’s community, having a lack of purpose in life are all health – and life – threatening issues faced by many of our neighbors, no matter their age, ethnicity, financial status or educational background. These are challenges that we need to work together to solve.
To give readers a sense of the effectiveness of some of these activities, I’m using as an example the A.M. Exercise classes that Suzanne Hunt introduced in April 2017. These take place three days per week from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and emphasize strength, balance, and flexibility.
Although some folks have come once and never again, a core group of around 12 to15 regular attendees has developed over the past 18 months. I asked some of them about their reasons for attending and what they’ve gotten out of it. Here’s what they said:
I wanted to work on building my strength and balance and flexibility. I don’t like exercise at gyms and I knew I wouldn’t do it consistently on my own. I love that it’s nearby (especially in February) and you can’t beat the price!
I think my balance is getting better, also I’m paying more attention to breathing when I go to the gym. I like the camaraderie and am getting more physically confident.
I was having issue with turning my neck around to back out my driveway. I attend all the classes unless I have a conflict and I schedule around the stretch class if possible. I believe the stretches have impacted me very much. My posture is better and I’m a lot more flexible.
I had the need for regular exercise with a set schedule, so that I WILL do it. I continue to feel good and be flexible and am making some new friends. The routine of having a schedule is good now that I am retired and have some free time—who knew? Friends, stronger bones, feeling like part of a community, being able to get there with a short walk. I know that I’d be able to have some input to a change in the class, if necessary. I’d recommend this to all of my more sedentary friends.
I moved to Maine a few months ago. I have always exercised and needed to continue. I go as often as possible and I feel better because I am aware now that I have to take it easier and not push myself. I’ve been meeting people and learning that Mainers are wonderful, caring people. Not only do I feel better, but I made some amazing friends that are helping me get through the maze of relocating.
Peter & Michelle
We were looking for something active to do together and we heard about these classes from a friend. It’s on our calendar three days a week and we’re pretty regular. We both have experienced real improvement in strength, flexibility, and balance. It’s a good way to start the day… together. And we’ve reconnected with some old friends and made some new ones. The only negative is coming from East Deering, the A.M. traffic. For anyone who wants to exercise regularly, but without pressure, it’s a great community resource.
I come for company, structure, especially after retirement in March 2018. There’s been a big-time positive change in my physical condition. I broke my foot in July, so couldn’t attend classes for quite a while and was not a happy camper! But, because of my balance and strength (arms and legs) training, I was able to function much better on one leg and reach further with my arms. If I hadn’t been participating in classes I would not have had such a beneficial outcome. Now I’m back learning to balance again. I have met folks involved in the West End and have learned of events I can participate in. There are much more rugged exercise programs for our young friends. These chair exercises are perfect, low-key, non-competitive, relaxed exercises that, I think, are the perfect complement to running, fast walking, gym work, or sports.
My overall strength and balance have improved. This is an hour to focus on overall benefits of physical fitness and relaxation. It’s time away from home… cell phone, TV, household chores, etc. These are well-organized classes and there’s respect/openness/rapport offered by each participant. I’d make a welcome invitation to all community people in the West End!
Rosanne Graef is a West End resident.