In Highlands Ranch, a senior fitness class aimed at getting the 55-and-over population moving has become a much more valuable resource to the community.
As a group of senior fitness participants celebrated classmate Yvette Gunther's 99th birthday party, many commented on how the program has led to lifelong friendships, support, and assistance for each other.
Taught by instructor Allyson Holgard at the Northridge Recreation Center, the aerobics class, held during the week, gets the senior population moving to energetic music and a lively atmosphere.
However, the connections do not end with the final song in class. Longtime class member Linda Wilson said exercise has become a small piece of the program.
“It really is not just about fitness,” she said. “It is about making important connections for all of us. For me, its more about being social and making friends. The classes are always full for a reason. This is definitely not your typical senior fitness class. Love the class. I love the program.”
Making the program a major success is the direction provided by Holgard, many students noted.
During Gunther's birthday party after class, Holgard made the rounds, hugging, smiling and showing that she has become a part of the group.
“With senior fitness, we all come together with different physical challenges and needs,” Holgard said. “We want everyone to feel at home.”
Gunther said after growing up feeling lonely in a boarding school, she hates being alone. The longtime Highlands Ranch resident said senior fitness has connected her to new friends, kept her in shape and made her appreciate the community she lives in.
“Every senior should take a class,” Gunther said. “You find inspiration to talk to people, find friends and be together. After I lost my husband, this fitness group helped me not be alone.”
Kathy Martz said she joined the class several years ago, and with Holgard's leadership, has loved every minute.
“Allyson is absolutely phenomenal,” she said. “She focuses on getting seniors moving and taking us well beyond the fitness aspect. We are connected and friends.”
To learn more about the senior fitness programs offered by the Highlands Ranch Community Association, visit the website at hrcaonline.org and click on "Classes, Camps & Activities."
At 99, Yvette Gunther is not slowing down. Instead, she is driving herself to a daily senior fitness class, enjoying life and planning for a 100th birthday celebration at Highlands Ranch Mansion next year.
Gunther celebrated her 99th birthday at the Northridge Recreation Center in Highlands Ranch last week, joking about the good times, reminiscing about the past, and enjoying the attention from about 30 friends.
Besides traditional food and desserts, Gunther was also treated to her first Jell-O shot during the celebration.
In describing their friend, many agreed that the one word that properly describes Gunther is “inspirational.”
Linda Wilson said she has known Gunther for several years, commenting on how she has missed more fitness classes than her 99-year-old friend.
“She's active, energetic and always inspirational,” Wilson said. “I mean, who doesn't want to get up every day and head to a fitness class at 99? Right?”
Senior fitness instructor Allyson Holgard said it has been an honor working with Gunther over the years.
“She inspires others by just continuing to show up,” Holgard said. “Her smile, her energy and her ability to never give up inspires everyone. Not even COVID could slow this woman down.”
Kathy Martz, friends with Gunther for more than two decades, said her friend has been a part of boards and organizations to help keep Highlands Ranch on track. Martz said Gunther has never shied away from giving back to the community.
“She is an absolute pistol,” Martz said. “She is a true example of what you can do at any age.”
Over the years, Martz said her friendship with Gunther is not just about a senior fitness class or serving on various boards. Martz said it is about being there for each other, noting that she has been there for Gunther in losing two husbands.
As friends gushed over how inspirational Gunther is, the 99-year-old said it all goes back to her childhood when her parents placed her in a boarding school. When the school let students outside to play, Gunther said she took full advantage of any athletic programs she could do, taking in as much sunlight as she could.
Gunther said she would never wish boarding school on anyone and has always vowed to be social, friendly and active in her life.
“I do not like sitting around,” she said. “Even after I lost my husbands, I get out and see my friends, walk my dog and get into all kinds of spoils. It is my friends who have kept me going.”
Gunther said she continues to stay active with exercise class and various community activities because she hates being alone, and her friendships are too important to stay inside.
Looking forward to 100, Gunther said she is going to rent Highlands Ranch Mansion. She said she plans to invite everyone she knows to celebrate the milestone.
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