Mary Ryerson didn’t start right away when the city announced its recreation agreement with New Jersey City University early this year.
But the retired worker from Philip’s Lightolier, who moved with the company from the original office in Jersey City to Secaucus, said the program that allows seniors to use some of the college facilities has been a blessing. A stroke victim, she benefits from the college pool where she works with one of a trainer for the city’s recreation.
The use of the pool helps Ryerson overcome the effects of the stroke in a non-stressful way, using weights and other water techniques.
Peter Aceti, program coordinator for the city’s recreation department, said NJCU agreed to allow seniors to use the pool, indoor track, and even the sauna during off peak morning hours several days a week until summer camp begins early next month.
The program started in January, and has seen an influx of seniors from across the city, although many of those who came to campus near West Side Avenue came from nearby senior housing.
“We are always looking to provide programs that improve the health of our youth and seniors.” – Mayor Steve Fulop
While parking is often an issue in the area, the city has arranged to allow seniors to park in Hudson Mall – which is about 10 blocks from the college.
“We shuttle them over here and then drive them back,” Aceti said.
The program runs from about 9:30 to 11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the city recreation department offers a variety of other services such as Yoga with Carol Lester and nutritional counseling.
“It is important for seniors to keep fit,” Aceti said. “They do not have to come every day or for the whole two and half hours. People come and go when they want to.”
Lester, who has been holding yoga programs for city recreation for years, went through a number of routines for helping seniors relieve stress and help them warm up for their walk on the track.
The program continues to expand with more than 150 people showing up to take advantage of the facilities.
One rainy day when Aceti thought people would stay home, seniors flocked to the place. While the program offers other places during warm weather, these are often subject to good weather. Hudson Mall also opened its doors to seniors to allow them to walk, but NJCU’s facilities are well-maintained and better suited to exercise.
On this warm day in early May, many seniors came carry gym bags, some walking across the street, some off the bus that had picked them up.
Marie Fox, who has been with the program since January, likes the pool, but doesn’t know how to swim. So she is buoyed up with flotation devices. A former employee of the Jersey Public Schools, she said, “I’ve lived my whole life in Jersey City. I was born in Margaret Hague (hospital) which tells you how old I am.”
While the agreement with the city is for use of the pool and the track, Marie Tauro said NJCU also opens up the sauna for use by the seniors.
Technically, the recreation program ends at 11, but seniors aren’t hurried out.
“We don’t want to impose,” Fox said.
Eileen Chmiel, a former teacher, said she was grateful for the program.
Alice DeFazio, athletic director for NJCU, said when presented with the proposal, school officials thought it was a good idea, too.
“We want to reach out into the community, and helping seniors seems like a good idea since they are often overlooked,” she said.
While the program currently is scheduled to come to an end when summer camp starts at NJCU, seniors have other options during fair weather such as use of city recreation fields and water walkways in downtown Jersey City. There are even events planned for Liberty State Park. The recreation department hopes to renew the agreement with NJCU for use of the facilities again in the fall.
Mayor Steve Fulop, who stopped by to encourage the seniors, said cooperative agreements like these help the city expand its services to residents.
“We are always looking to provide programs that improve the health of our youth and seniors,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.