GARDEN GROVE, CA (AP) — Grab a chair, have a seat and away you go – you’re now in a game of No Fall Volleyball.
It’s an exercise class designed specifically for seniors in their 60s, 70’s and 80s.
The game is a modified form of beach volleyball – but with seats, a bigger ball, lower net and referee. It’s intended for seniors trying to regain their strength in a safe environment.
No Fall Volleyball is run by Nifty After Fifty, a national chain of senior-only fitness and wellness centers.
In Garden Grove, California, the class is offered three times a week.
Mark Merino, CEO of Nifty After Fifty says the class helps with everyday movements, like stretching and reaching.
He says it not only helps seniors work out but also helps improve their outlook on life, by lifting spirits and reducing loneliness.
“One of the most important parts of No Fall Volleyball is the engagement. We all know that exercise is good for us but it’s difficult sometimes to get up in the morning and go and workout. This gives them something to look forward to and spending time with their friends. As a side benefit, they also exercise. Flexibility is definitely improved through No Fall Volleyball and the core is definitely strengthened. There’s a lot of oblique exercises and core exercises that go along with this, also flexibility in the neck, looking from side to side. It’s also something that’s very important for driving. One of the things that happens with senior drivers is that they don’t look over their shoulder because their neck is stiff and this brings back that flexibility and makes them better drivers as well,” says Merino.
A kinesiologist referee is on site and acts as an instructor for what organizers call clinically supervised fitness.
Referees call the points, get the stray balls and call penalties. And the players all get into the competitive spirit.
Linda Melone is a fitness trainer focusing on those over the age of 50 and says it’s important older people stay active.
“The National Council on Aging says that falls are the leading cause of accidental and non-accidental deaths in people over 65 so if you can prevent falls, clearly you help people live longer so a class like this that engages so many aspects not just their fitness but their emotional health and the social health is just fantastic as a way to get them involved and having fun doing an exercise is something that we all strive to do and sometimes its hard to find,” says Melone.
Medical Director of Valley View Wellness Medical Center, Dr. Michael Z Kurtz says the class is a great for the elderly because it improves motor skills, reaction time, eye-hand coordination, flexibility and upper body and core.
“As we get older the problem that we have is osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a breakdown of the bones so people who don’t exercise, they can just walk across the room, walk to the refrigerator, they break their hip and they fall down. Everybody thinks it’s the reverse. They fall down and break their hip no they break their hip and fall down from not exercising and not eating the proper foods. You need calcium. Not from milk. Citric calcium is the best thing to take. The best thing do though to prevent it is exercise,” says Kurtz.
Kurtz says this class in particular has players going out socially with one another after class and keeping in touch.
“It’s also good for socializing. When you’re with all these people, a lot of them go out to dinner, they go out to lunch, they have social groups, they meet and they talk because the worse thing you can do when you get older is go into a nursing home, what do you do? You stay in bed all day. They’ll get you up to walk around but basically you eat, you sleep, you walk around. They do physical therapy. I call it God’s waiting room; you’re waiting to see the above,” he says.
One player, 80 year-old Lori Geller is an example of someone who has gained emotionally and physically from volleyball.
“Emotionally the game has just given me extended friends, family, camaraderie. It’s given me my strength. It’s given me shoulder motion, stronger legs, better breathing and just the excitement. I have neck movement now that I didn’t have before,” she says.
Another person feeling the benefits is 86 year-old Ed Gooselaw. He says it helps his concentration and enjoys the teamwork.
“Oh physically, it definitely helps me exercise and the game itself and concentrate on the game and play in it. I like to play with all of my partners as a team and I enjoy team playing. I feel very good as part of the team and participating with the team,” says Gooselaw.
Fellow player Veba Clark, who recently turned 85, had a stroke in 2008 and major surgery in 2014.
She credits her strength and stamina today to this volleyball class.
To ensure people don’t get injured or too carried away, there are penalties for those who reach too far or get out of their chairs.
When they get a penalty, they have to do a sit-to-stand repetition in place from their chair which helps strengthen leg muscles.
The cost is US$5.00 per class. But for many seniors in the US, fitness gyms are part of their insurance plans.