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Wyoming seniors hit the gym

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Posted at 8:44 AM, Aug 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 10:44:31-04

CODY - Can you imagine 90-year-olds doing deadlifts and squats in a weight-lifting gym? That’s exactly what’s happening in Cody.

It’s a program started with high school and professional volunteers, and soon may spread to the rest of the state.

It could save Wyoming millions of dollars in the process.

Consider John Parko. He does squats and pushes his trainer for one more rep.

When he first came to this gym, he needed help walking down the long flight of stairs.

“I can walk now. I couldn’t walk very well before. It’s helped out my quality of life,” Parko said.

Parko is one of about thirty seniors who come to this gym to do squats, leg lifts, deadlifts, and anything their trainer asks. It’s part of a program to keep them from falling.

Senior Program Designer, Certified Trainer and EMT Aaron Nichols, pointed out: “The mortality risk after a hip fracture is double.”

Ninety-year-old Mary McDonald is not the oldest here, but she was once.

“And I thought, my gosh, all these younger people, you know, 70’s, 80’s, I thought they would be so far ahead of me, but there’s no competition,” she said.

They get free weight training from professionals, assists from high school volunteers, and free assessments from a doctor of physical therapy.

“I do have better balance," McDonald said. "I’m walking better. I still look after the house by myself, and the yard, and a cat, and life is good.”

“It’s insane. We’ve seen some people really change their lives,” Nichols said.

“People are just all talking about it, the knitting club I heard about this morning, and the quilting group, and before you know it they are starting to bring their friends,” Senior Wellness Project Sponsor Deb White said.

With help from her certified trainer, who is also an EMT, White created the Senior Wellness Project for her Cody high school students who belong to a service organization, called CAN. She was inspired by her own family tragedies.

“My dad died from a broken hip," she said. "That was the beginning of the end. My mother-in-law, kind of the same story.”

“Resistance training is like the number one thing you can do,” Nichols said.

The physical therapist who measured the strides of improvement these people have achieved agrees.

Doctor of Physical Therapy, Jason Frei, said: “This is something special. I’ve seen some huge improvement with people and their scores, just in their quality of life and their community that’s being built.”

White and Nichols are preparing a grant proposal for the Wyoming Department of Health, and hope to show it would save the state a lot of money.

White pointed out: “You would only need to keep one person from falling in each of those communities to pay for itself.”

She said the cost of hip surgery and rehab for one person would be about the same as the cost to fund her program in a community.