It’s Monday morning and the pool at a Queensland retirement village is about to get busy. As the music blasts, a group of fit and buff men in their 60’s and 70’s enter the water.
Following the enthusiastic instructions from their trainer, they bust out their best moves. It’s aqua aerobics at its best. And it’s just for the men.
The regular male-only class at Stockland’s Shine Birtinya is an example of how retirement communities are increasingly catering for the needs of men, and at the same time helping all their residents lead healthy lives.
Tom McKenzie is aged 71 and a class regular.
“I’ve always been active and when I moved in a year ago, I was doing balance classes, cardio exercises and walking,” he says. “I wasn't getting the overall fitness that I wanted though, and my darling wife had been nagging me for ages to try the aqua classes.”
Tom wasn’t convinced that exercising in the water would have any benefit other than cooling him down in the Queensland heat. He was wrong.
“Like most men, I thought it was going to be easy and (wrongly) dismissed it as a female exercise,” he says. “I quickly realised that wasn’t the case. When done with real gusto, the exercises get your heart pumping and I know I’m not the only male in the class to be surprised.”
Tom now attends four aqua classes a week, alongside six other male residents, but he’s always encouraging other males to give it a go.
“I think it's easy for men after they finish their working career to start chilling out and not focus on keeping themselves fit and healthy,” says Tom.
“But the physical and mental benefits of these classes are amazing. You get to work out with a group of likeminded men and have the chance to chat after.
“The reality is that it’s not going to improve my looks, but it's made me feel a lot better in every way.”
Keep on moving
Trainer Joel Warman created the male aqua aerobics class in November last year.
“Men are always encouraged and invited to join in any of the classes, but I created the male-only aqua class to make them feel more comfortable and help bust the myth that aqua aerobics is just for females,” says Joel.
“We’ve had strong attendance, which is great and increasingly men are seeing the benefits.”
Joel notes that one resident experienced joint pain in his legs which was limiting his daily activity and stopping his participation in his normal gym routine.
He’d previously overlooked aqua aerobics due to perceiving it as ‘easy’ exercise but soon came to realise the benefits the class has to offer.
“He gradually gained increased movement and function back to a point where he was able to return to his previous exercise,” says Joel. “He’s still a regular in the pool now for our aqua sessions.”
Exercise as we age
It’s not just aqua exercise that has multiple benefits for the human body as we age, it’s all types of exercise.
Fortunately, retirement communities are increasingly home to modern and well-equipped fitness centres and services to help keep their residents healthy and active.
According to the 2020 Retirement Census, 45% of villages now have a bowling green, 58% have a pool, 46% have a gym, and 53% have a wellness centre.
“With aging we see a decline in many physical attributes that we take for granted at a younger age,” says Joel.
“One of the major benefits of physical exercise as we age is that it can slow the decline in strength, cardiovascular fitness and mobility leading to a longer and improved quality of life.”
Joel says activity can also help with improved self-confidence and stress management, as well as increasing blood flow and oxygenation of the brain which in turn keeps the brain healthier longer.
At the same time, retirement communities are also increasingly catering for the needs of men, particularly through facilities such as men’s sheds or community boats, along with male-only fitness classes.
Comments from our CEO
Downsizing.com.au CEO Amanda Graham said that, released from the shackles of work, many retirement community residents had more time to exercise and therefore were probably the fittest they had been in their entire lives.
“Retirement communities are a great place to stay fit and healthy,” Ms Graham said.
“Not only do they increasingly have the latest facilities and visiting health professionals to stay physically healthy, the sense of community and companionship also helps people with their mental well-being.
“The operators of retirement communities also understand that men have different needs and interests to women, and are catering for this.
“Our site allows people to search for the various on-site facilities offered by retirement communities, to allow people to find the community which best suits their needs.”
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