Summit County seniors like to ‘get after it’ |

Summit County seniors like to ‘get after it’

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From outdoor recreation to quality time with friends, local seniors are meeting all the healthy habits attributed to longevity

Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by the Summit County Community and Senior Center and Summit County Senior Citizens

Whether they're cross-country skiing, gardening, quilting, biking, playing cards or volunteering — seniors in Summit County participate in activities that enrich their lives and keep them on the road to longevity.

Thanks to the Summit County Community and Senior Center, which works in collaboration with Summit County Senior Citizens, anyone over the age of 50 in the county has access to all they need and more in order to stay active, get quality medical care, socialize and more.

"Throw out any preconceived notions you might have about a 'senior center,'" said Don Gerstein, a member at the Senior Center. "This is a very active group of seniors. They get out and do stuff. Being active keeps you from feeling old."

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Research from Blue Zones, geographic areas whose residents have the longest life expectancies in the world as evidenced in the book, "The Blue Zones," by Dan Buettner, shows physical activity is one of nine healthy habits practiced by the world's longest living populations. The other habits include finding a sense of belonging, never overeating, eating a diet heavy in vegetables, putting family first, enjoying a glass of wine or two per day, having purpose in life, unwinding from stress and spending time with others who practice similar habits.

In Summit County, which has the highest life expectancy in the country according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the other healthy habits on the Blue Zones list are normal ways of life for local seniors.

"The Summit County Community & Senior Center is a buzzing center of activity that harnesses our community's strengths to support local seniors in living healthy, fulfilling lives," said Lorie Williams, the Summit County Community and Senior Center's manager. "We host a wide variety of programs and services that support physical, social and mental health."

Finding purpose

The Summit County Seniors group is among the most active volunteer groups around, raising tens of thousands of dollars every year for local nonprofits that protect the environment, foster the arts and provide human services, Williams said. She calls the group a "charitable powerhouse."

Having a meaningful sense of purpose in life may help us live longer, according to research published in the journal Psychological Science that found this sense of purpose predicted lower mortality risk in a study of more than 6,000 participants.

Longevity might be the long-term bonus of feeling a sense of purpose, but the more immediate benefits are obvious in the attitudes of local seniors.

"We never had time for volunteer work while working," said Sandy Bainbridge, past president of Summit County Seniors. "Having a way to give back to the community through the Senior Center has been very purposeful for us."

Bainbridge said the seniors wouldn't feel nearly as young as they do without their involvement in the Senior Center.

"Certainly our social health is enhanced with the number of folks we have met at the Senior Center," she said. "Our own neighborhood is very quiet with mostly absent homeowners. The Senior Center provides us with a neighborhood feeling."

Getting after it

Many Summit County Seniors participants are able to enjoy a wide array of physical and recreational activities, but that shouldn't preclude those who aren't as physically able anymore from joining. The Senior Center serves elderly seniors and those with special needs, also.

For those who can do more, many find they can do even more than they realized once they're part of the group.

"We wouldn't be nearly as active  without the Senior Center recreational opportunities on our calendars," Bainbridge said. "There are so many ways to help with our fitness through senior programs, and have fun with new and old friends."

A quick glance through the center's 16-page monthly newsletter reveals a veritable cornucopia of activities and programs. While skiing, hiking, bike rides and other outdoor recreation are part of the normal calendar, some less physically-demanding activities that keep in line with the Blue Zones' healthy habits include a book club, group excursions such as the annual Rockies game, Monday night dinners, group games like bridge and mah jong, yoga and more.

Williams jokes that the local seniors "really get after it."

And while fun and games is a huge part of what they do, the seniors also find support for other equally as important tasks related to aging.

"Beside the social aspects, the Senior Center offers help navigating the aging process including assistance with Medicare and Social Security issues and keeping up with technology," Gerstein said. "It also provides aging services like Meals on Wheels and transportation to medical appointments."

The Longevity Project event
Speaker Tony Buettner, with the Blue Zones Project, will discuss the habits of people who live long lives on Tuesday, Feb. 27, during the Summit Daily News’ “The Longevity Project” event at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Visit to buy tickets ($25).