Tag Archives: Aquatics

Marge Says

Seniors get exercise and catch up with friends during a water aerobics for arthritis at South Run RECenter.

Seniors exercise and catch up with friends during a water aerobics for arthritis class at South Run RECenter.

Oh, we all have our aches and pains, our pacemakers, joint replacements and health problems but they seem less significant when we are there together. Besides, none of us is particularly stunning in a bathing suit at this point in our lives anyway.

Marge says to me, “Why don’t you write a story about us, George? We’re a unique group.” Indeed, I guess we are. We are the ten o’clock water aerobics arthritis class at South Run Park. Of course, far from all of us are in that class because we suffer with arthritis. I mean, when you are a senior, who wants to rush to get up and get to a class at 8 or 9 in the morning? Coffee and the newspaper are much more fun until you can get your body going, and we all agree that it takes longer and longer for that to happen. Oh, we all have our aches and pains, our pacemakers, joint replacements and health problems but they seem less significant when we are there together. Besides, none of us is particularly stunning in a bathing suit at this point in our lives anyway.

The first task of the day is counting the men. Are there four or five of us today? Maybe six. Where is Joe? Haven’t seen Dave since last week. We have a new guy. One day we are going to outnumber the women. Bill, the lead counter, is 89. If only I could live to 89, I should do half as well as he. Bill is an amazing gent. He travels all over the United States visiting family, makes several annual trips to Florida on the auto train and is in a perpetually positive and humorous state of mind.

There are scores of interesting folks, Anna, who talks frequently of her sick cat, and though in her 80s leaves class and invites all of us to meet her and friends at McDonalds for lunch every day, who says McDonalds appeals only to young folks? Sam, who says he is trying to overcome 45 years of inactivity, May, always with tales of the wild kindergarten grandchild and those teachers who reminisce about their experiences in the classroom. Politics is outlawed and that is good for all of us.

Don’t get the idea that water aerobics is not serious business, it is. However, first we need to find out what Pete has planted in his garden, how tall the corn is, if there are any signs of tomatoes yet. How Shirley’s and Fred’s trip across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary went. Who is reading what book and will they share it when they finished and a dozen or so other equally important things.

In a fifty-five minute class surely there is time for a little bit of chatter before, Carolyn, the instructor says, “If all you are going to do is talk, then move to the back corner.” All gets quickly quiet for a few moments and we attempt to follow the instructions all the while amazed at Carolyn’s energy level and how easily she can move her body in ways that most of us couldn’t even twenty years ago. She is patient with us as she yells out, “Watch your posture, stand up tall, you’re leaning.” Or our favorite, “faster, faster.” I am always certain that I am the only one that is leaning forward. But I know I am not the one going slow.

After about twenty-five minutes we grab our noodles and ride them like we did our pretend ponies when we were little kids. What fun! Who can paddle without their legs touching the bottom of the pool, who touches and who cheats doing a combination of both. On occasion, we take the noodle in one hand and swing it wildly in the air making certain that as we do it splashes the water periodically so someone will complain they are getting their hair wet. Of course we stretch the noodle in every possible uncomfortable position.

In the end, Carolyn wishes us well and tells us that we are finished for the day. Whew! We are tired but it is time for our reward. Out of the pool, we grab towels and rush to the hot tub to finish our conversations, relax, check on everyone’s weekend, children, and grandchildren and just soak in the warm water. It seems that we have plenty to say. We bid our farewells and then it is off to our own activities until Monday, Wednesday or Friday, whichever one is next.

Thinking about us, I am reminded of the quote from Margery Williams “Velveteen Rabbit”: “When someone really loves you, then you become real. Generally by the time you are real most of your hair has been loved off, your eyes droop and you get loose in the joints. But once you are real it lasts forever.” A collection of grandmas and grandpas, we are about as real as it gets and in spite of our lack of hair and loose joints, we can always count on having a really good time.

Written by George Towery

Murals Spread Smiles At Providence RECenter

Aquatic Supervisor Ginger Colón's artwork is livens up walls and windows at Providence RECenter,

Aquatic Supervisor Ginger Colón’s artwork is livens up walls and windows at Providence RECenter,

When Providence RECenter Aquatic Supervisor Ginger Colón looks at the walls and windows, she sees blank palettes waiting to be painted. To her, they are a canvas for telling stories, and her imagination goes into overdrive as she ponders the possibilities. Art has been a lifelong passion for Colón, and flat surfaces inside the RECenter provide a unique venue for sharing her creative gifts with people. For over a year, Colón’s colorful murals have brightened up the RECenter and brought joy to countless patrons.

Colón paints coworkers in humorous settings.

Colón paints coworkers in humorous settings.

Colón’s murals change with the season. Currently, visitors to the RECenter are greeted by a large polar bear ice skating with a penguin on a frozen pond. This mural painted on the windows of the staff offices adds a splash of color to the main lobby while obscuring the activities of the people inside. The big, smiling faces of the skating pair are warm and friendly. Patrons looking at the windows next to the skating animals will notice more familiar faces. Staff members ride snowboards, climb mountains, hang from branches, skate on a pond, throw snowballs, dangle from cliffs, and warm up by a fire. Colón created the images by pasting photos of her coworkers’ faces on bodies that she drew. “Staff and customers love it,” she said. “They have all been really good sports.”  

Providence staff engage in a snowball fight.

Providence staff engage in a snowball fight.

In the past, Providence had paid an artist to decorate the RECenter. But when Colón was given permission to try painting last winter, she made the most of her opportunity.  Her first mural was painted on the windows looking out to the sundeck and depicted penguins engaged in a snowball fight.  Each panel told a story, and the patrons had fun with the final scene where a hiding penguin was hit with a snowball. After the success of Colón’s first mural, Manager Patti Stevenson gave her permission to paint the hallway leading to the pool. 

Colón chose to paint an underwater scene. The mural, which is about as tall as a child, extends the full length of the hallway and covers both walls.  Apprehensive children may be soothed by the sight of the familiar clownfish hiding behind the door. Adding to the aquatic atmosphere is a young sea turtle with oversized flippers gliding along the current while his larger parent peeks backward. A school of triangular tropical fish swim in formation, and a dolphin waves hello with its flipper. A timid crab peeks over a rock, and a jellyfish bobs lazily, eyes closed, tentacles dangling, seemingly without a care in the world. Clams open their shells to reveal tiny treasures, and starfish cling to colorful coral. Colón says she loves the surprised reaction of children when they recognize the characters.  “They’re coming for a swimming lesson, maybe their first, and they know it’s a friendly place to be. It truly blesses my heart to make them happy.” 

 

Colón is a former professional cake decorator.

Colón is a former professional cake decorator.

Growing up in California, Colón always liked painting landscapes and seascapes. It was her way of relaxing. “I get lost in my seascapes,” she said. As a child, Colón drew cartoon figures and portraits of her family and friends. She took art classes in high school and later became a professional cake decorator. She designed cakes for all occasions. When Colón worked in the Fairfax County Public Schools as an instructional assistant, she would make a heart-shaped cake every Valentine’s Day. The cake looked like a box of candy, and the lid read, “Teaching is a work of heart.”  Students who saw her murals outside her fourth-grade classroom would tell her she should be the art teacher. “They always loved to walk by and see the work in progress,” Colón recalls.

It’s not just children who enjoy Colón’s murals. Patrons stop by her office to let her know they appreciate the paintings. “Customers doing water walking tell me how much they relax and love to look at the paintings. It makes them feel so happy,” she said. One patron asked Colón to re-create a polar bear on a piece of wood for a Christmas display in Vienna. “I drew it and she painted it. Things like that are why I love art – making others happy,” she said.

Although it pains her to see her window paintings removed, Colón is always thinking about her next subject. To prepare for a new mural, she takes photos with her phone and sketches the pictures freehand to add her own designs. She also studies window design videos on YouTube. Once the windows have been decorated for Valentine’s Day, Colón will turn her focus to the summer mural. She’s looking forward to painting palm trees and beaches, subjects close to her heart.

Providence staff were painted in a beach scene for Colón's summer mural.

Providence staff were painted in a beach scene for Colón’s summer mural.

The customers enjoy the changing murals, and staff members continue to wonder in what scenes Colón will paint them next. Colón said she loves painting murals so much that she’d do it even if it only paid jelly beans. Summing up why she paints the murals, she said, “Everyone is given gifts, sweet spots, something that is easy to do. So I love to do this because it really brings me so much joy in my heart to share a gift that was given to me from up above.”

Written by Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer