Ellen Devine, 90, front center, works out with a weight at the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA. Devine, 90, regularly participates in the Silver Sneakers program, which is growing in popularity.

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Ellen Devine rarely misses a Silver Sneakers workout class at the Chippewa Valley Family YMCA. Devine, 90, said she feels better after the program, which involves a lot of stretching and lifting small weights.

“I had triple bypass surgery three years ago,” Devine said after a recent class. “They told me if I hadn’t been in such good shape, I wouldn’t have made it. (This workout) is essential. I wish more people would do it. And I have all my ‘Y’ friends.”

Devine lives alone — her husband, Joe Mandelert, died in March — so she feels it is extra important to stay active now.

“I feel I accomplished something good for me,” she said. “For as old as I am, I feel I can do almost anything.”

Jennifer Sherbinow, Chippewa Valley Family YMCA executive director, said the Silver Sneaker class, and all the programming for seniors, have seen a sharp increase in users in the past five years.

“I’ve definitely seen it grow,” Sherbinow said. “It’s not uncommon to have that room at capacity. Our parking lot is full in the morning — it’s our active, older adult population.”

The Silver Sneakers class is 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Space is limited to 30 participants, and they usually top 20, instructor Jean Liedl said.

“We’re always getting new people,” she said.

Liedl has been teaching the class for the past seven years. She said she stresses five areas: flexibility, strength, range of motion, coordination and balance. Participants use small weights and focus on stretching their arms, legs and abdomen.

“I give a lot of reminders to listen to your body today, and what it can do,” Liedl said.

Kathy Bollom, 74, said she has been a YMCA member for years and joined the Silver Sneakers classes when she retired.

“It’s good physically,” Bollom said. “I have minor arthritis. You feel better physically and emotionally. And we laugh.”

Cora Haugli, 79, also attends the class routinely.

“I feel so much better after I’ve been here,” Haugli said. “The aches and pains go away. It sets the day. A lot of us feel that way.”

Silver Sneakers is a national program, Liedl explained.

“Some insurance companies will pay a client’s membership or reduce their premiums if they go to classes,” she said.

Sherbinow said the insurance discounts help bring those people into the building.

“It got more senior citizens to come in,” she said. “It drives people in who might not have come in before.”

The Chippewa Valley Family YMCA is in the early stages of beginning a capital campaign to raise $10 million to renovate and expand the building. Sherbinow said one of the areas that would be expanded is to have more social spaces for seniors to congregate and talk after their classes are over.

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