The Fit-4-Life program, based out of Kit Clark Senior Services in Dorchester, was established in 2007. The program serves adults age 60-91 and draws a diverse population both in culture and ability. All of the participants have at least one chronic medical condition.

Kit ClarkThe program focuses its efforts on achieving better health outcomes by encouraging participants to incorporate healthy eating and regular physical activity into their lifestyle.

This is in part a tribute to Program Coordinator Garry Sanon’s philosophy on health and working with older adults. Sanon likens the human body to a house: “Longevity depends upon the levels of care and maintenance over time. For those whose human houses are older, incorporating a balance of healthy eating and adequate physical activity can help combat disease and loss of function. The work you put in today determines how your house will look and function in the future.”

The program is intentionally designed to offer myriad ways for its participants to get healthier, expanding beyond the traditional chair-based classes by offering creative and fun programming such as circuit training, Zumba, gardening, yoga and Tai Chi to get people up and moving. On top of better physical health, the program has also provided participants with the opportunity to socialize with peers and volunteer in Kit Clark’s Madden Senior Center. Elaine Denniston, a recent retiree and regular participant commented, “The good thing about this program is it adds structure to your day. It gets you up and out of the house. It gives you something to do.”

“Participants find it comforting to see a room full of other older adults working toward improving their quality of life,” said Sanon. As witnessed through a recent site visit, the older adults at Kit Clark are eager to get to workouts, filling the gym with an incredible energy.

Kit ClarkDue to the length of time the program has been operating, the staff at Kit Clark have been able to witness results and watch participants maintain better health over time, especially for those adults who have attended for many years. Sanon shared this success story: “One participant has been a member for three years, but when she first started, she was very limited in her ability to walk on a treadmill. Today, she attends three exercise classes per week, walking between one-half and one mile per hour for 10 minutes each class. She recently celebrated her four-year anniversary as a stroke survivor. Her new goal is to walk from the door to my desk without using her walker.”

This incredibly encouraging real-life example portrays the benefits of the program and the dedication of its participants.

This story was published originally in the Tufts Health Plan Foundation’s January 24, 2012 newsletter and updated in November 2013.