Snowbirds are populating Manatee County after their long voyage from up north, and, as usual, they will need some stretching, strengthening and lengthening to get back into prime flying shape.
But, fortunately for them, Manatee County has become a snowbird revitalization hub.
In fact, the county is a great place for all seniors to get or stay in shape for whatever golden journey lies ahead, said Mallory Carteaux, fitness and wellness supervisor at GT Bray Recreation Center.
“Everyone needs to be active as we age both for the social benefits and to maintain muscle mass,” Carteaux said. “Staying physically active brings joy and helps seniors stay around for a long time.”
Here is a small sampling of Manatee County’s “senior focused” places where both snowbirds and year-rounders can go to be revitalized over the coming months:
‘SilverSneakers’ energy lights up Renaissance on 9th
At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, about 20 seniors were using hand-held weights, elastic tubing and colorful balls to increase their muscular strength and range of movement in Renaissance on 9th’s hugely popular SilverSneakers Classic exercise class.
These 20 or so SilverSneaker students also come at 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays for the same rigorous drill.
“They wake up every part of that body with balls, bands, straps, sit down, stand up, weights and so forth and when they come out they feel good that they have done something for themselves,” said Sue Taylor of Renaissance on 9th.
SilverSneakers Classic, which is free for most students with their supplemental insurance, is just a small part of the offerings for seniors at the Enrichment Center at Renaissance on 9th in Bradenton, said Stephanie Grepling of Meals on Wheels PLUS, which runs the Renaissance on 9th programming.
There is also Ballroom Dancing, Zumba, Group Walk, Belly Dancing for Cancer Survivors, Tai Chi, SilverSneakers Yoga, Yoga for Cancer Survivors, Qi Gong Meditation and many other offerings, Taylor said.
“We also have line dancing every Monday morning from 9 to 11 done by a professional instructor, said Judi Bjork, general manager and vice president of Renaissance on 9th.
“A Matter of Balance,” an eight-week course that doctors recommend, is also starting soon.
Paula Edwards, herself a snowbird from the Chicago area, taught Thursday’s SilverSneaker class. Edwards, who filled in for the regular teacher who couldn’t make it, said she was surprised by the group’s vim and vigor. They really got to huffing and puffing by the time the class was over at 11:15 a.m.
“These guys are amazing,” Edwards said after class. “I’m so impressed with how active these people are and how many of the different classes they take. There are just so many things available here at Renassiance on 9th that it’s incredible.”
Joan Gallo is the SilverSneaker Classic class cheerleader at Renaissance on 9th. She gets everyone laughing as she prays to Jesus to help her through stretches and marching in place.
“I’ve been coming for five-and-a-half years,” Gallo said. “I feel better. I move better. I didn’t lose weight yet, but it will come.”
Barbara Fleming, a very youthful looking senior, has been taking SilverSneakers Classic at Renaissance on 9th for years.
“It’s taken some weight off, it’s toned things up, my clothes fit better, I feel better and my balance is better,” Fleming said.
“I really believe that this class has made me mobile,” said SilverSneaker Elaine Ripstein. “I do a regular burn class with younger people and I can do it because of yoga and other classes I take here. It’s especially good for people who have parts replaced.”
GT Bray Recreation Center
GT Bray Recreation Center shares the unofficial title with the Enrichment Center at Renaissance on 9th as one of the county’s most popular senior exercise destinations.
Roughly 300 people come through the doors every day at “Bray” and slightly more than half are seniors, Carteaux said.
“I believe what makes us popular is that we offer a variety of activities,” Carteaux said. “Seniors can take group fitness classes, swim in the pool, play tennis or pickleball or use our fitness center and do it all in one place rather than a variety of facilities.”
A monthly membership, which covers all the classes and all the aforementioned activities, is rising from $20 to $25 on April 1, Carteaux said.
Among senior specific classes, which have a $5 drop-in fee without membership, include Strengthen and Lengthen, Cardio Flex, Water Aerobics, Tai Chi and Chair Aerobics.
For seniors on very tight budgets, super-volunteer Kelly Winton leads free Zumba dance classes at Bray, membership and drop-in-fee not required, at 10 a.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m. Wednesdays and 5:30 p.m. Thursdays.
Bradenton Woman’s Club’s Friday dance
Rebecca Biro goes to the Friday night dances at the Bradenton Women’s Club and, at 67, she says she’s among the younger ones who are out there on one of the county’s largest hardwood dance floors at 59-feet by 39-feet.
“We have people who don’t sit down for three hours,” Biro said. “It’s up to you.”
The club offers a dance lesson from 7-8 p.m. followed by live music from 8-11 p.m. The donation is $10 per person.
“It is mixed social dancing,” Biro said. “We don’t like to use the term ballroom because we are not strict,” Biro said. Although no one wearing denim will be asked to leave, dress is casual formal, Biro added.
Three of a Kind is the first Friday of the month band and they have a country flair, Biro said.
For those who like 40s music, the second Friday of the month band, Mellotones, fits that bill. For those who like modern music, Kathy & Paul perform the third Friday of the month. Closing out the month is JJ & Scottie, who feature “a bit of Latin,” Biro said.
“We don’t get a lot of singles, but if we do we introduce them to each other,” Biro said. “Newcomers are always welcome because we have from beginners to professionals.”
If you go
- What: Snowbird and local senior-friendly exercise at Renaissance on 9th, GT Bray Recreation Center and Bradenton Woman’s Club.
- Where: Renaissance on 9th, 1816 Ninth St. W., Bradenton; GT Bray Recreation Center, 5502 33rd Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton; Bradenton Woman’s Club, 1705 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton
- How to find days and times of classes/events: Renaissance on 9th, 941-749-0100, renaissanceon9th.org; GT Bray Recreation Center, 941-742-5923; Bradenton Woman’s Club, 941-896-6541.