Seniors Use Fitness to Give Back

Betty Estle exercises with other residents at Edgemere. (Photos: Chris McGathey)
Betty Estle exercises with other residents at Edgemere. (Photos: Chris McGathey)

Edgemere’s Italianate décor may not seem like the usual setting for a workout class, but for its resident seniors, it’s just the ticket. And not only that — it’s a way to give back.

That’s because Edgemere takes part in a special program, where residents tally up their minutes spent working out and the total numbers go toward a donation to various charities.

“Smile! Show your teeth,” instructor Charles Plafcan tells the participants of his 9:30 a.m. class.

Plafcan plays music that he knows will cater to his audience — hits from the 1940s, jazz, and show tunes. Residents follow along with arm circles, squats, and chair exercises.

A few of the participants have served on the fitness committee responsible for compiling minutes and selecting charities. Minutes that residents do individually also count toward the total.

“Edgemere’s parent company agreed to give us a dollar for every 500 minutes we turn in,” resident and former committee member Diane Hott said. “So far, we’ve given to 45 charities. You name it, we’ve given it.”

Shirley Owen has a ball in class.
Shirley Owen has a ball in class.

Hott and fellow resident Johanna Pietsch especially enjoy donating their time toward charities that benefit battered women and rehabilitation facilities. But they appreciate the selection input of both lifetime Dallasites and newer residents alike.

“Since we both came from out of town, we chose big ones,” Hott said. “People who are on the committee now, if they’re local and have lived here forever, they know littler ones I wouldn’t have known about.”

Their dedicated instructor — who’s been teaching for 32 years — thinks very highly of the program. After all, he tallies the total number of participants in each of his 18 classes each month to go toward the total amount. It’s not uncommon to reach 800-1,000 participants in one month.

“It’s a great idea,” Plafcan said. “It motivates them to know that they’re contributing to charity.”

But the residents understand that the benefit is not all for others.

“It handles every part of your body; it builds strength in your arms and in your legs. It’s really a very good program,” Pietsch said. “And, we get a lot of exercise just walking to the dining room!”

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