Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com
A recent grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation Healthy Aging Initiative is helping the Wang YMCA of Chinatown give neighborhood seniors the tools to improve their physical and mental health.
The two-year, $100,000 grant helps fund a free exercise and nutritional program called “Get Fit, Stay Fit for Life.” The Wang YMCA and the West Roxbury Y will both receive funds from the grant.
“Chinatown is the most densely populated neighborhood in Boston,” Richard Chin, Wang YMCA community development director, said in a statement released by the YMCA of Greater Boston. “Residents are mostly Chinese or Asian immigrants, and while there is a strong sense of community here, there is also disparity among our senior population.
“Many face social isolation as widows and widowers — living alone, feeling depressed, and often afraid to leave their homes. This program helps combat that,” Chin said.
Through six months of exercise classes, workshops, counseling, and social activities, the program shows participants in their 60s, 70s, and 80s how to change habits to reduce their chances of developing heart disease and cancer, according to the statement.
The program includes a free six-month membership to the Y, with the requirement that each participant exercise at least three days a week and take part in a weekly nutrition workshop.
Participants record their weight and body mass index at the beginning of the program and undergo a physiological survey. They are measured again at the end of the six-month session to gauge their progress.
Most gain muscle strength and flexibility, which reduces pain and discomfort in their joints and improves their mobility, according to the statement. Their blood pressure is gradually reduced, and they have more energy and independence, the statement said.
“Seniors graduate from the program feeling stronger, more physically independent and more connected to the community as a whole,” Chin said in the statement. “It’s not often that you will see someone at age 60, 70, or 80 stepping into a group exercise class for the first time.”
The next program session will begin in August. Translators are available for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. For more information, call 617-426-2237 or visit http://www.ymcaboston.org/wang.