Written by Bud Russo
Photography by Donicio Madrid
My husband and his best friend played guitar for years. They filled our house with music. I was the groupie who carried the guitars whenever we partied… and we partied hard. We joined Senior Circle and, when I got my newsletter, I saw the guitar lessons. So here I am.
That’s how Olivia Cream-Medina got into the Senior Circle, the comprehensive program that addresses mind, body, and spirit of people 50 years and older.
Senior Circle, affiliated with MountainView Regional Medical Center, is part of a national program involving more than 100,000 people in 140 chapters. MountainView’s chapter is the only one in Las Cruces, although there are others in New Mexico. The program incorporates a mix of exercise classes with other activities designed to holistically keep people healthy.
Membership is $15 a year, “But that includes everything we do here,” says Terry Hewitt, Senior Circle program manager. “It’s a great program to take advantage of. We offer 40 exercise programs a week. We have presentations on health topics. We have support groups for people with osteoporosis, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and other diseases.”
The list of exercise regimens includes cardio and aerobic Dancercise, Zumba, and line dancing, yoga, T’ai Chi Chih, Joy Thru Movement, and chair fitness, as well as a class designed to “sculpt and tone your abdomen,” humorously named Laugh Your Abs Off!
“Our instructors are all certified to work with those of us who are 50 years and better,” Terry adds. “They know the type of exercises that are good for us and how much they can push us to make us stronger.”
Michael Levine has been coming to Senior Circle for nearly a year. Faced with heart-related health issues, he says, “I take cardio and strength classes and yoga.” He once told the program manager, “I think this program has saved my life.”
When members get tired of exercise, they can partake of Spanish and French lessons, guitar lessons, and art, including painting with the Las Cruces’ Artament group. For mind stretching exercises, there are the Brain Pump and Blast from the Past discussion groups.
Besides health issues, topics covered in presentations include checking up on your Social Security, fraud watch, reverse mortgages, AARP’s smart driver course, and aging in place, a course on how to modify a home so you can live in it longer.
“We also have a monthly luncheon, catered and paid for by the hospital,” Terry adds. “A lot of our members tell us the best thing about Senior Circle is it’s given them a place to be and that’s a big, big deal to folks. When they turn retirement age, they feel like, ‘What am I going to do now?’ This place gives them the answer.”
One of the benefits of membership is a 30% discount at the hospital’s cafeteria. Don’t scrunch up your nose; Terry says, “We have a really wonderful chef in Paul McKim. He makes really good food.”
Members also get complimentary meal passes to eat in the cafeteria for every day a loved one is in the hospital, adding to the convenience and reducing anxiety of having to be away longer from a spouse or partner. Senior Circle has also made arrangements with national companies providing discounted services for vision care, hearing aids, personal emergency response devices, and dental care.
One of the essential elements of Senior Circle is camaraderie. “It’s important to me to meet new people and get out of the house and to have something to do,” explains Charlene Cloud, one of the first members of Senior Circle.
Daphne Wirthlin, dressed for her Dancerise class, adds, “It’s a joyful experience. A lot of people, especially women who’ve reached the age where they live alone, get the chance to share and be with women who are in similar situations.”
And it’s not just a woman-thing, although women sometimes are instrumental in getting their men involved. Clifford Madrid, a guitar student, relates this tale: “I bought a guitar a few years ago, but I didn’t use it. My wife joined an exercise class here and, one day, she told me, ‘I signed you up for guitar class.’ So here I am and I’m having fun.”
Pam Miller, another guitar student, says, “My husband, Tim, bought me a guitar years ago, and it just gathered dust in the closet. When we moved here a year ago, we signed up for Senior Circle, and I was delighted there was a guitar class. So, Tim got a guitar, and we’re taking lessons together.”
“Senior Circle is something we wanted to give back to the seniors in our community,” says Veronica Peery, director of marketing and business development for MountainView. “We offer a lot of different things here with the hope that if members need health care in the future, they’ll be familiar with our services and choose to use MountainView. We want to let members know what resources exist in the community so they can get screenings, they can get vaccinations, they know what’s available to them, and hopefully they’ll be able to see their doctors for preventative reasons. Our aim is simply to keep people healthy longer so they can maintain a high level quality of life.”
MountainView Senior Circle
3948 E. Lohman (behind Walgreen’s)