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Fun & Fitness in Bernardston

Jessica RielJessica RielThe Bernardston Senior Center sits back from the road at 20 Church Street. The large, white, Italianate, former school building is quite welcoming beside a little pond in the autumn sunshine.

That sense of welcome extends as you walk inside the building and are greeted by the volunteer at the front desk. On Thursdays, Bill Johnson, a senior resident of Bernardston, welcomes guests.

Bill and his wife, Candice, are regular attendees of the exercises classes at the center. Bill, who describes his own experience as “wonderful,” notes that many people from surrounding towns have been attending the programs as well because “it’s a very friendly, welcoming, kind and loving atmosphere.”

For the past 13 years, making the senior center become just that has been the mission of Dianne Cornwell, Senior Center Director. Back when she took on the role, the center was only open two days a week. Now, visitors are welcome to attend the daily lunch at 11:45 a.m.; social trips and outreach programs on Mondays; speakers, music, fitness classes, arts and crafts projects, and other programming on Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; plus some scheduled events in the evenings.

And the fun doesn’t stop there.

“We are introducing a new health and fitness program,” says Cornwell. The Bernardston Council on Aging (COA) and the YMCA in Greenfield are partnering to offer “Enhanced Fitness,” an evidence-based, nationally recognized senior fitness and arthritis management program. The goal of Enhanced Fitness is to help older adults become more active, energized, and empowered for independent living. Activities include a warmup phase of balance exercises, strength training with soft ankle and hand weights, walking or aerobic activity, and a cool down period focused on flexibility, all in the course of one hour.

“It’s a fun class,” says Cornwell.

Enhanced Fitness will be offered by trained and certified YMCA instructors three mornings a week at the center, and each session will last for 16 weeks. The recommended donation is $1. Those interested in signing up should attend one of the introductory sessions on October 7, 9, or 10 and call 413-648-5413 for more information.

Marcie Hebert knows firsthand the benefits of the health and wellness offerings at the senior center. “When I started classes, I couldn’t get out of a chair by myself or bend down to tie my shoes,” she says. “I had a hard time.”

Participants of the Thursday Chair Exercise fitness class at the Bernardston Senior Center take a moment to do some standing exercises with weights.

The exercise classes, which she has been attending three times a week for three years, have changed her life. “I’m finding out that exercise and eating well is really helping me. I benefitted from everything. I would not think of going without my exercise,” says Hebert, adding, “My doctor is 100% behind the program.”

The new classes will be offered thanks to a Title III grant, formula fund, and fundraising done by the senior center. The center will hold a benefit fundraiser as part of the Bernardston Kiwanis Scarecrow in the Park event on October 25 and 26, with lots of family activities and vendors in Cushman Park and a raffle with prizes donated by over 100 local businesses and organizations and more at the senior center. Call 413-648-5413 with questions.