It didn’t take long for Nathan Brandon, fresh out of seminary, to realize that he shouldn’t underestimate senior citizens. All it took was a trip to the World’s Fair with an active group of senior adults to set him on a course that would ultimately benefit him in his retirement years.
While Brandon retired in 2015 as director of Cherokee County Senior Services, he is as active as ever. We asked him to tell us how he got involved working with seniors and what inspires him to keep busy exercising every day of the week.
What’s your background with seniors in Cherokee County?
“We moved to Canton in 1982 from seminary, and I was hired as a staff minister at First Baptist Church, Canton. That job also had responsibilities with senior adults. That was my first experience. It was incredible! My first trip with them was to the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tenn. It rained like a cow urinating on a flat rock! I thought the seniors would be miserable. WRONG! They outran us and insisted on a fire when we returned to the condo. It only got better. In 1986, I went to Berea College for training in the Body Recall exercise programs for older adults. It was a hit and soon our senior group included many seniors from the community. From that experience, I eventually went into work with seniors through the assisted living industry. It was my pleasure to work with families to help their loved ones thrive in a safe and enjoyable environment.
“I transitioned from assIsted living work to direct the Cherokee Senior Services Agency. We served many adults who did not have the means to chose assisted living. Through providing meals on wheels, homemaker services and case management, we were able to help seniors stay in their homes longer. Then, about four years ago, I started the Body Recall exercises for the seniors we served.”
What prompted you to help seniors pursue exercise?
“I felt like our programs took care of personal needs and material needs but lacked the physical needs of our seniors. Body Recall stresses emphasis on strength, flexibility, balance and coordination in order to sustain independence as long as possible. Since that first class in February of 2013, the program has grown significantly. We now meet in the Boys and Girls Club gym across from senior services [office on Univeter Road in Canton]. Their director, Keisha Day, has been very supportive. She allows us to use the gym each morning for exercise as well as Pickleball.
“Recently, in May of 2017, I was introduced to Pickleball. It’s a combination of racquetball and tennis and badminton. It’s perfect for older adults, of which I am now a member, who want some cardio exercise without excessive running. Our group now plays five days a week in the Boys and Girls Club gym. We invite beginners to come and play without being intimidated by the competition.”
Is transportation an issue?
“Transportation for seniors is the number one biggest challenge. Independence requires the ability to travel to doctor appointments, grocery shopping and worship. We started the volunteer driver program at senior services that still provides rides for seniors at no cost. It’s a delicate balance for families to discourage their senior from driving, yet can’t provide transportation when needed. The ‘talk’ about driving is second only to moving out of one’s home.”
Explain the benefits of exercise for senior adults.
“As we age, we can experience challenges to our normal or youthful range of motion, flexibility, balance and coordination. If we continue to move, we’ll be better able to deal with these natural changes in our physical abilities.”
What if someone has never exercised?
“The first step you can take is walking. Set realistic, measurable goals to help you start a meaningful exercise program. (The Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency offers a Silver Roamers program for seniors to remain active and enjoy fellowship. Call or visit 770-924-7768 or visit www.crpa.net.)
“Every exercise program should include a combination of cardio and weights. It may be wise to have supervision if you have a medical history that prevents cardio work without supervision.
And remember that it’s important to stay hydrated. A balanced nutrition program and proper hydration will enable most older adults to enjoy an exceptional quality of life.”
Cherokee Senior Services classes:
8:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Malon D. Mimms Boys and Girls Club, 1082 Univeter Road, Canton. 770-720-7712.
Strength and Flexibility Exercises held Tuesdays and Thursdays at the William G. Long Senior Center, 223 Arnold Mill Road, Woodstock.
678-445-6518. www.woodstockga.gov/92/William-G-Long-Senior-Center. Free.
9:45 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday at the Malon D. Mimms Boys and Girls Club gym. Free.