Seniors & Aging

This program helps Whatcom seniors with mobility. ‘I’ve seen amazing positive effects’

Tanja Wolf, left, participates in an arthritis exercise class at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center in Bellingham.
Tanja Wolf, left, participates in an arthritis exercise class at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center in Bellingham. bianca.he@bellinghamherald.com

Lori Jacobson has served as the aquatics manager since Bellingham’s Arne Hanna Aquatics Center opened in 1995, but she had already long since seemed destined to help seniors – and people of all ages – learn to love the exercise benefits of swimming.

“I was 15 when I first taught someone as an instructor – a 78-year-old woman,” says Jacobson, 55, of her days as a state-ranked club swimmer in North Carolina. “It was my first summer on the way to certification. Ever since, seniors have touched my heart. I give the hugs; I get the hugs.”

Jacobson, an affable graduate of North Carolina State University, followed her husband, Tom, to Bellingham. She served seven years in the Army National Guard and is obviously a can-do person. She calls her duties at Arne Hanna “truly my dream job.”

She exudes a love for swimming, dating back to her high school days when she was a force behind establishing swim programs for girls and boys (she graduated just before those programs started, but she still cherishes the memory).

She oversees a complete program for seniors, including deep-water running along with a separate intense deep-water interval program; water aerobics; water arthritis exercises; and deep-water aerobics, along with a regular lap swimming lessons.

Jacobson says one of her staff members, Michelle Martinson, “… just loves the arthritis exercise program. She is such an enthusiastic, happy person and brings so much experience to our programs.”

Martinson is a constant advocate for helping seniors with arthritis.

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Participants in an arthritis exercise class follow the instructor’s directions at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center in Bellingham. Evan Abell evan.abell@bellinghamherald.com

“The program (which can include anyone) has certified instructors trained to help with specific exercises. I’ve seen amazing positive effects,” Martinson says.

“I have seen people (with arthritis) pushing 80 years old with walkers and canes, and a few months later they leave without the walker!” she says.

Here are 10 more things prospective senior swimmers should know:

Complete guide: A four-page information guide lists all programs, times for each session and costs.

The water arthritis program: Sessions with a 30-person maximum are held 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Workouts are designed to help anywhere arthritis can strike, from hands and feet to shoulders and elbows and more. There can be accommodations for people who use wheelchairs.

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Participants in an arthritis exercise class follow the instructor’s directions at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center in Bellingham. Evan Abell evan.abell@bellinghamherald.com

Deep-water running: Sessions, with a maximum of 23 participants, are held every day with a floatation belt, including early morning (5:30 to 7:30 week days) and at night (8:15 to 9 Mondays through Thursdays).

This is not to be confused with lap swimming; deep-water running is a cardio-involved exercise method of staying vertical with the upper body out of the water.

Deep-water running intervals: These sessions, with 15 maximum, are held 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. weekdays. These are challenging exercises for those who love brief but highly intense workouts.

Water aerobics: Two one-hour shallow-end sessions are available weekday mornings, along with a late-morning one-hour Saturday session.

Deep-water aerobics: A maximum of 15 participants can take more challenging aerobics from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

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Suzanne DuBois, recreation instructor, teaches an arthritis exercise class at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center in Bellingham. Evan Abell evan.abell@bellinghamherald.com

Adapted aquatics: 45-minute sessions offer anyone at least 3 years old with special needs to work in the water with a volunteer, followed by 15 minutes in the hydrotherapy pool. Volunteers work out specific individual programs with goals of increasing swim skills, flexibility, exercising and having fun.

Bellingham Masters: A competitive year-round morning and/or evening workout group is offered for swimmers at least 18 years old. Masters competition is offered nationwide for serious seniors in five-year age increments. Information on times, dates and more: Jof Abshire, 360-319-2813.

Swim lessons: All ages can learn of an extensive program by consulting the free information guide. Many triathlon competitors use these lessons.

Bargain participation: Program admissions are run on a drop-in basis. Rates vary by age; for seniors 62 and older, a one-day pass is $4.25 for most programs, with water aerobics at $5.25. To save money, 10-visit passes are $37.50 and $47.50; three-month passes are $110 and $105; annual passes (introduced last year) are $360 and $340.

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