Wander past the Box Factory Community Centre in the city’s south on a weekday and you might get caught in the slipstream of Meirwen Whewell as she whizzes by on her walker.
Turning 92 this year, this Welsh-born, Adelaide-raised city resident is a familiar face at the centre, participating in art and writing sessions, as well as Exercise for Seniors classes she helped initiate three years ago.
In 2015, Meirwen attended Wellbeing and Resilience workshops run by the City of Adelaide, where participants were encouraged to explore their strengths and passions, and identify ways to improve their PERMA+.
PERMA+ is the framework used by the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at SAHMRI to measure a person’s sense of life satisfaction and happiness as well as their ability to persist through challenges, recover from setbacks and leverage opportunity. It stands for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment; the + being Physical Activity and Nutrition, Sleep and Realistic Optimism.
Meirwen and her friend Barbara were inspired to create a place where older people could do gentle exercises in a sociable environment. They worked with the Box Factory team and personal trainer Molly Mersh to devise a program for people 60 years and over, to help improve cardiovascular fitness, strength and balance.
“The classes revolve around a chair which lets participants reduce the load on their joints and perform harder exercises when seated,” said Molly. “Standing up, the chair acts as a stable base to hold onto when practicing balance. As everyone improves, they rely less and less on the chair.
“The commitment and determination everyone shows is very inspiring. I may receive a few glances when I give them a hard exercise to do, but they never complain and even practice at home.”
Meirwen also successfully applied for a City of Adelaide Recreation and Sport Grant to fund some new equipment, and the addition of weights and resistance bands has attracted new participants.
For Meirwen, the classes have had a huge impact. Previously, she struggled to walk up the stairs at home. Now she’s gained strength, mobility and new friends.
“The first year I was hopeless,” said Meirwen. “I couldn’t lift my legs high at all. But recently I could do all the exercises the doctor told me: legs out straight, push against this, push against that. He said, ‘You’re pretty strong, aren’t you?’. I can walk all the way from the dental clinic to my house with my walker and my kids say, ‘How on earth …?’ It’s because of the fitness classes!”
Want to join in? Classes run Thursdays, 4-5pm. Cost: $5. cityofadelaide.com.au/bfcc
Get in touch to get involved
Make cityofadelaide.com.au/seniors your first stop for information on programs and opportunities to support city seniors to keep living independently and participate in community life.
If you have an idea or passion you’d like to share, contact Council’s Wellbeing and Resilience Team on 8203 7203 to discuss how we can help you to make it happen.