At the end of every Forever Fit class led by volunteer Cindy Johnson, Eventide Sheyenne Crossings residents lift their fists in the air and shout in unison, “Looking good, feeling good!”
For eight years, Johnson has led the exercise class at Eventide Sheyenne Crossings for 30 minutes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. With a background in physical education teaching primarily working with kids, Johnson never saw herself working with older people. It wasn’t until she was faced with health issues preventing her from working full time that she was prompted by a friend to look into volunteering.
Johnson met with the Eventide Sheyenne Crossings Senior Living Director to learn about what opportunities there were available. Although initially apprehensive of the role of leading the Forever Fit class, she agreed to check it out for a week. She quickly grew to love leading the class.
“I love it. It’s been an amazing adventure and I never would have envisioned this ever,” said Johnson.
Now, eight years later, Forever Fit has grown from 8-10 residents to 25-28 residents per session. With exercises that are adaptive to both standing and sitting, every resident is able to participate. The benefits for the residents are difficult to measure exactly, but they include increased physical activity, social interaction and mental stimulation.
Johnson’s philosophy has always been, “Come, do what you can. If there are days when you can’t do something just sit, watch, and laugh w
ith us. We have a blast. Even if you just sit and laugh, your stomach is getting a work out from laughing! It works for everybody. And, a lot of this is just social. For me, too. They can come down here, be with their friends, talk and laugh. We just have a good time.”
“Some of them are talking each other into coming so there’s accountability, which I think is cool. It’s almost like a little team. In fact, we have shirts that say “Team Flamingo” that we wear on Wednesdays. It’s a team effort,” said Johnson.
Eventide Sheyenne Crossings residents make a consc
ious effort every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to get up, come down to the class and spend time with friends exercising. “I look at all of them and my heroes are in this group. They don’t have to come. They come because they say, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it.’ They tell me, ‘Not only do we know that we need to come, it also makes us happy,’” said Johnson.
Similarly, Johnson has benefited greatly from volunteering to lead the Forever Fit class. After each class she leaves feeling inspired, encouraged, and appreciated. Throughout the years that Johnson has been volunteering, she has experienced several health issues including having a pacemaker placed, dealing with thyroid cancer and having a brain tumor removed.
“I tell the class that I sometimes feel like I get more out of it than they do. We push each other. Volunteering for this class has carried me through all of my health issues. The support and love from these guys is amazing. They’re my reason and volunteering here gives me a purpose,” said Johnson.
“They know my family, they’ve met my husband. It’s kind of like everyone is intertwined and it’s so cool. I think people are put in your life for a reason. I truly believe I’m supposed to be here. I’ve been told by a lot of people in the class, ‘Hey, you’re making a huge difference.’ I say, ‘You’re making a huge difference in my life. This is amazing,’” said Johnson.