To take care of the grandparents and to take care of the children is the sign of love….A people that does not know how to care for the children and a people that does not know how to care for the grandparents is a people without a future because it doesn’t have strength and it doesn’t have the memory that will carry it forward.
Pope Francis, Address at the World Meeting of Families, September 26, 2015
Throughout Catholic Charities, we have hundreds of volunteers who share their passions with those whom we serve. At Catholic Charities program for senior services, St. Martin de Porres in Alexandria, volunteers lead instructional exercise classes that support elderly health that also increase the seniors’ knowledge of exercise and nutrition.
The activities range from Zumba to Arthritis Foundation classes to Muscle Fitness — the activities create a sense of self-confidence for the participants. As they strengthen their muscles, joints, and heart, a conversion of positivity takes over. Below, meet two of our volunteers who help our seniors to move more freely, feel great about their improvements, and take on new challenges!
Marie Kennedy taught and coached track for more than 30 years, including 7 years as the first Fitness Director at Catholic University of America.
These days, instead of high school and college seniors, she’s using her time to focus on seniors of a different variety — those who visit St. Martin de Porres Senior Center.
Every Thursday, Kennedy comes to Alexandria from her home in Great Falls to teach Muscle Fitness to the seniors. The goal of the class is to help them maintain muscle mass, which deteriorates much faster in older age.
“By maintaining a higher level of physicality in old age, our seniors can continue doing their daily activities and keep a high quality of life,” said Kennedy, who has had elderly parents live with her. “It also helps build self-confidence and makes them feel young.”
Kennedy also has an assistant, Marcia Slick, who leads the class if she needs to stop and give a senior individual attention and help with a particular exercise. Both Kennedy and Slick are parishioners at Our Lady of Hope.
“This is an opportunity to use what I know to make things better for other people,” Kennedy said. “And the rewards are great. You give back to them, but you gain much more than you give.”
Patricia Aldas has spent more than 33 years working in health care and her current position as a community relations representative brings her out into the community, to build partnerships and promote healthy living.
To maintain her own health, Aldas was attending Zumba classes with her daughter when she decided to get certified herself. Now she brings the classes to the seniors at St. Martin de Porres.
“It’s so important for the seniors — not only do they get to move around and exercise their joints, but it makes them so happy to listen to the music,” she said. “It brings out so much happiness when we do the Zumba.”
With more than 30 countries represented at St. Martin’s, the beat of the music breaks down this language barrier.
“They may not understand the words but whatever movements we do, everyone enjoys it,” she said. “They really come alive.”
Catholic Charities work at St. Martin de Porres is a partnership with the City of Alexandria and local parishes to strengthen the families and the future by showing love to the seniors in our communities. Please pray for this apostolate.
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Volunteers and donations are needed for activities including front desk help, exercise classes, bingo, and computer classes. Contact Kathryn Toohey at KToohey@ccda.net or 703-751-2766.