Active Agers Program - a partnership between The Velodrome Cambridge and Mel Engelbrecht from the YMCA
- By encouraging senior citizens in the community to participate in recreational and fitness activities, the Active Agers Program hopes to contribute to their overall health, fitness, and sense of well-being. Located at the velodrome and facilitated by Mel Engelbrecht, YMCA Hamilton, the program has been running for 13 years, changing the lives of our seniors through offering Circuit Classes, Spinning, Men's Only classes, and Unisex Pilates classes.
The YMCA and Velodrome are committed to support healthy and active lives for seniors. Mel Engelbrecht, YMCA Regional Manager, leads the Active Agers Programme, which reduces physical barriers to older citizens' freedom and well-being. Mel started the programme in 2010 in the Baptist Church hall with 5 members once a week. Now, 100+ members attend 9 courses a week at the Velodrome, with 20–30 participants per class, including Circuit, Spinning, Men's Only, and Unisex Pilates programs.
As people age, mobility, cognitive, and sensory impairments can make daily chores challenging; thus, sessions focus on concentration and coordination, balance and strength, fitness and flexibility, and confidence and interaction.
As seniors on fixed incomes struggle to afford transportation, amusement, and healthcare, economic problems can hinder their health. Carpooling and starting a weekly Te Awa cycle group to and from velodrome lessons have helped Active Agers solve transportation obstacles.
To increase participation, the velodrome and Mel, discounted their service fees to reduce financial constraints that may lead to social marginalisation and less recreational community involvement.
Elderly adults lose friends, relatives, and spouses, generating loneliness and social isolation, which impair social engagement and purpose.
Physical impairments might separate seniors from socialising and communicating. All senior citizens use the Velodrome's user-friendly gym app to confirm, pay, register, and cancel their attendance. A personalised facebook group shares notices, important information, and other communication, creating an inclusive environment where everyone is kept up-to date.
- At the start of the year, the offering consisted out of one circuit class on mondays and wednesdays, One spinning class on Tuesdays and Fridays and one Pilates class on Fridays. High participation rates created waiting lists to attend classes, as the ration was capped at 20 participants per class to ensure health and safety remains a priority as well as excellent service. A decision was reached to double the amount of classes offered per day for circuit, and to add two more pilates classes on a Thursday - one class for Men Only, focusing on the specific needs to remain strong and flexible for the male body as well as a Unisex Pilates class. A fully qualified Spinning and Group Fitness Instructor who volunteers her services to the YMCA, Pam Taylor, came on board to assist with all classes to ensure health and safety continues to remain a priority, as well as to increase attention and support during the class for all participants. Due to impaired hearing, as a result of old age, the velodrome agreed to switch off the gym music during pilates classes and the active agers fundraised for Mel to purchase a special headset with microphone to make the classes more audible. In an attempt to create a more welcoming and friendly environment, the velodrome plays 60s and 70s music on Mondays and Wednesdays for the Active Ager's Circuit Classes. The Bikery Cafe now offers a discounted rate to the seniors for their coffees after class.
- Mel Engelbrecht took the opportunity in 2010 to start the program. As a result of exponential growth, Mel needed to relocate to a larger venue at the same time as the agreement was made between St Peter's and The Avantidrome ( now called Velodrome ), to build the community inclusive high performance sport and recreational activities space. Mel has been the initiator and have qualified three new fitness trainers to assist, grow and continue the Active Ager's Program, as part of their professional development: Sarah Chadwick, Tara Wilson and Pam Taylor. Tara Wilson and Pam Taylor continued with the initiative whilst Mel moved to Saudi Arabia for four years. Upon Mel's return from Saudi Arabia in June 2021, she resumed with the project after the COVID Lockdowns. The program is now the largest community recreation and fitness program collaboration between two parties (The Velodrome and Mel Engelbrecht, on behalf of the YMCA ), for senior citizens in the Waipa.
The Velodrome is fulfilling its agreement with St Peter's for the gifting of the land in return for guaranteed non-discrimitive access of the community to the velodrome.
The Te Awa Cycle way to the Velodrome has been supported and is utilized by the senior citizens' Bicycle Group - cycling to and from the velodrome from Tamahere Country Club as well as Te Awa Village, St Kilda and Oakdale, Cambridge.
The Bikery Cafe has enjoyed high support from the Active Agers having their daily dose of Bikery treats and drinks after classes.
The velodrome is supported and promoted by the Active Agers as a valuable community place of interest in the Waipa.
Mel Engelbrecht has been able to professionally develop and qualify new fitness trainers through Te Mahi Ako, utilizing the classes as a platform to train and mentor the new up and coming trainers.
Senior Citizens participating in the classes have noticed increased fitness, strength and a sense of wellbeing in the lives. Enjoying an increased sense of self, with more confidence and abilities to enjoy tasks and activities in their daily lives, the Active Agers Program increased overall wellbeing, physical abilities and mental clarity of participants.
- Increased community wellbeing through active participation in fitness and recreational activities by senior citizens in the Waipa, has been the overarching result achieved by the Velodrome and Mel on behalf of the YMCA. The collaboration between the two parties has ensured the sustainability of the project, as both parties are wholly dedicated to the cause of active communities and overall wellbeing as a result of participation in sport and recreational activities. Social isolation and stress on the health and medical sector will have been positively impacted by the continued growth of the Active Agers Project as it is well known that the NZ's ageing population is growing at a steady rate, forecasted to reach 26.7% of the NZ population to be over 65 years old, by 2063, resulting in excessive demands on the government and social development. The continued growth and reach of the Active Agers Program through the collaboration of these two trend-setting partners, will pave the way to a healthier, more active and positive community and senior population in NZ.
- Sport & Active Recreation Partnership