Barbara Sippel (in blue jacket) attending Zumba class with other Gatesworth residents. Photo by Tim Parker Photography

Residents of The Gatesworth don’t dwell on the aches and pains that come with aging. They’re too busy swimming, pumping iron, and dancing the cha-cha and merengue at the community’s state-of-the-art fitness center. Designed specifically for seniors, it offers an ever-changing roster of exercise and conditioning classes, plus the latest equipment, a heated indoor pool and whirlpool, and a highly trained staff.

“At The Gatesworth, keeping active encourages independence and upgrades the quality of life,” says Carrie Montrey, director of spa, security, gift shop and concierge services. “It’s so rewarding to see someone who can barely move without a walker or cane develop not only better balance, muscle strength and flexibility, but the confidence that comes with increased strength and mobility.”

Montrey estimates that more than half of The Gatesworth’s residents use the fitness center at least two or three times a week. “And that’s because they enjoy it, attendance isn’t mandatory,” she says. “It’s a social thing. They’ll take a class with their friends or stroll around Forest Park with our walking club, then have breakfast together. Or they’ll work out and then soak in the whirlpool, followed by a massage or a pedicure in our spa.”

Spacious and airy, the fitness center is an oasis of soothing neutrals. Residents are encouraged by personal trainers and certified exercise instructors. Training and classes are offered at every level, and free weights and Keiser weight machines, which are kind to older joints, are available.

“We tailor the programs to whatever our residents want and need,” says Brenda Guillory-McNaughton, now in her 10th year as a Gatesworth trainer. “For example, we offer water fitness classes specifically designed for seniors with arthritis, and seated classes for those with limited mobility. We’re constantly trying new things and adding specialty classes to keep everyone motivated.”

Each participant gets an individually designed fitness program that starts with a thorough medical history and physical assessment. “We take into consideration any surgeries they’ve had, medications they might be on, and vision or hearing loss,” Guillory-McNaughton says. “Our goal is to find safe, functional ways to adapt to age-related changes. Then we help them set realistic goals. They like a challenge, and they like to see improvements.”

Results have been impressive. “One resident, a 95-year-old gentleman, had been confined to a motorized wheelchair,” Guillory-McNaughton recalls. “We started him out on a simple supported walking program, and within a month he was out of that chair.”

Another resident, Barbara Sippel, takes walking class twice a week and Zumba dance. “I fell twice when I was living on my own,” says Sippel, who gives her age as ‘39 plus.’ “My kids persuaded me to move into The Gatesworth, and I’m so glad they did,” she says. In two years, she has progressed from wheelchair to walker to cane, and now she can walk on her own. “Everyone here is so helpful and encouraging, now I know I can do it.”