Open heart surgery hasn't slowed Yvonne Flett down – in fact, it's given her the kick-start she needed to continue following her passion for helping people.
The 81-year-old leads a community-based strength and balance class in Bethlehem called Keep on your Feet. Initially part of Age Concern's Steady As You Go programme, Yvonne received training as a peer leader, and for last three years has facilitated this community class with great success.
More recently, Yvonne has linked the class with Keep on your Feet, a group exercise class facilitated by Sport Bay of Plenty as part of a Bay-wide initiative to reduce falls and fractures in older adults.
Yvonne takes classes once a week on a Thursday in Kempton Park Village, which is gaining a following of not just residents in the village, but the wider Bethlehem community.
It's great fun for Yvonne and her class, which includes an hour of easy, accessible strength and balance exercises and a get-together over a cuppa at the end.
“We had one lady who started coming to us in November and she said this is her social outlet, which is lovely,” she says. “We often have morning teas and birthday celebrations, which is all part of the fun!”
Like Yvonne, the majority of participants are in their 80s – one of Keep on your Feet's oldest classes – but you wouldn't know it.
Packing out the Pavilion in Kempton Park Village, the residents are put through their paces in both seated and standing exercises, and though it may be challenging at times, the smiles never leave their faces.
“We have a lot of fun,” says one man. “My wife and I live outside the village, but we love coming to the classes so we make the trip in each week. We've been coming since it started and we think it's just great.”
For those who regularly attend, Yvonne says the progress is evident in their posture and movement, and it's an inspiration to others in the class.
“One man came to us for about 12 months,” she says. “He had been introduced to the class through another participant, and when he first came he was terrible! Just on 80 years and he could barely move.
“Now he's come such a long way. His doctor says ‘what are you doing, because it is working?' His wife says he just lives for Thursday mornings.”
It's not just participants who feel invigorated by the classes, with Yvonne saying she loves the social and physical aspect. While walking is difficult after her surgery, the strength and balance exercises have helped her movement and she is keen to take up croquet in 2018.
“We have cards at the village, but I prefer to be active, and I loved playing croquet with my son over the Christmas holidays. It's been great to feel good on my feet and be able to keep doing things that I love.”
For a full list of classes near you, please visit: www.sportbop.co.nz/keep-on-your-feet
If you are interested in offering a strength and balance class in your community, or you would like to be trained up as a strength and balance instructor, get in touch with Jen on: 027 419 0067 or: email firstname.lastname@example.org