The Physical Fitness in the Golden Age program was developed during the Fall semester of 2005. A small seed funding was obtained from the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation’s Ageless Health Initiative which allowed us to elaborate on the program plans and begin our participant recruitment. With a group of 30 older adults the program started in January 2006. We aimed to serve the older adult community with a comprehensive fitness program to improve overall health and functional ability, and maintain independent living and mobility. The program was developed within the Department of Kinesiology and was assisted by several other UTEP departments, including the Department of Recreational Sports, the Alumni Association and the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects.
The overall structure of the program consisted of three weekly training sessions focusing on strength, cardiovascular training, coordination, agility, and balance and building confidence while providing a comfortable environment for people of the same age working together for a common goal: increase quality of life during the golden years.
Since the start of the program, the number of participants has grown to about 250. The initial 30 participants were trained to be role models of successful aging as fitness Ambassadors. As Ambassadors, these participants took on the task of peer mentoring new participants, as well as inviting others from the community to join the program. Newly enrolled participants are trained with the help of trained program supervisors and Kinesiology undergraduate students from a course titled Fitness Programs and Appraisals.
The program’s initial location was at UTEP’s Swimming & Fitness Center in 2006. In 2007, after nearly a year of renovations and restructuring, the program moved to a new and permanent location, the Ross Moore building on the UTEP campus. The grand opening of the new facility took place during the Fall semester of 2007 and the facility was named Fitness Research Facility. Building renovations and equipment purchases were made possible with UTEP’s in-kind support, funds available from the Library, Equipment, Repair and Rehabilitation Funds, as well as fundraising campaigns carried out with the involvement of program participants and students.
The program has been successfully operating in the Fitness Research Facility ever since the grand opening in 2007. With new participant recruitment taking place three times a year, over the years nearly a thousand older adults were involved in our program for various time durations. We are proud of the fact that several participants from our original group of 30 are still in the program, as well as many other participants who now have been with us for many years.
However, even with the tremendous success and achievements in our program, we recognize that an even greater community reach-out is possible with the establishment of additional program locations. Therefore, the future goal of the program is to establish off-campus program locations, preferably in all major subdivisions of the greater El Paso area. Establishing multiple locations will enable us to bring the program closer to the older adult residents, thus providing easier access for those with limited transportation options.