Art of Aging: Getting seniors fit and healthy

The rates of obesity are rising across all age groups, and experts say those excess pounds can be particularly risky for senior citizens.

There is a free program that helps older adults get fit and healthy.

Seventy-six-year old Jessie Howard suffers from diabetes and knew she needed to lose weight to bring the disease under control. But it was a heart attack that finally got her attention.

"I started thinking, 'I don't want to die,' so I must do something about it," she said.

She turned to The West Philadelphia Senior Community Center for help. The center offers nutrition and diabetes classes, a full gym and personal trainers.

And the program is free for Philadelphia residents over the age of 60.

"The atmosphere here is awesome and the support is off the chain," Jesse said.

Personal trainer Daniel Virgo said, "Nobody's ever on their own when they come here. It's a family."

The center also offers Silver Sneakers classes, where older adults can get fit as they groove together.

Helen Rayon, Health and Wellness Coordinator, WPSCC said, "You see such camaraderie among the seniors, and this is the place you come to in the morning so we can wrap our arms around you."

For Jessie, the journey to lose weight has been enormously successful. When she first came to the center a year and a half ago, she weighed 360 pounds. She's lost 130 and counting.

And her diabetes is under control.

"I feel as though this center has saved my life." Jessie said.

It's also given her a sense of pride in her accomplishment and a much needed boost in her self-esteem.

"I think I'm all that now, and a bag of chips," added Jessie.

For more programs about seniors, visit the Art of Aging section,

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