Giving Back: Golden Opportunity for seniors targets strength, balance

Published 12:17 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

LAPLACE — Ochsner Medical Complex-River Parishes is helping the region’s older residents stay active and healthy through a program called Golden Opportunity.

Golden Opportunity instructor Kathy Koehl said the program works on strength, balance and body alignment while keeping the heart rate in the fat burning zone.

“We incorporate yoga, and end each class with a meditative period,” Koehl said.

The program is for individuals 50 and older that are able bodied. The first year’s membership is $25, thereafter it’s $10 a year to maintain membership. Even though the program has already started, those interested are welcome to join at any time.

The group meets at 10:15 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays on the third floor of the medical pavilion located at 500 Rue De Sante in LaPlace.

The members meet as a group with Koehl before she splits off to help them one-on-one if assistance is needed.

“We screened all parties before we started the program so we can track their progress,” Koehl said. “In just one month, all were able to get from sitting to standing without assistance, which many could not do prior to the program. By the end of the second month, all are able to stand on one leg, a crucial element in improving balance in order to prevent falls and fractures.”

Koehl is a trained instructor and holds certifications in group exercise, personal training, spin, resistance ball, Pilates and yoga.

“How you approach a training program in the ‘Golden’ years is completely different than how you would train a 30-year-old,” she said. “Providing a program that promotes wellness and independence without putting the participants at risk is crucial. It is a quality of life program. All members agree they are stronger, more body aware and, most importantly, minimizing their risk of falling, which is the greatest predictor of a fracture.”

Ann Laiche, one of the program coordinators for the Golden Opportunity, said falls and fractures are seniors’ biggest concern. Laiche takes care of the LaPlace and Kenner area.

“The program really focuses on core strengthening,” Laiche said. “When people get older and frailer, if you work on core strength, it can help you balance more easily. If they can build up that core strength, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Laiche, like Koehl, said she sees a difference in the members’ mobility since beginning the classes.

“We have educational opportunities where we invited the doctors in to educate our seniors,” Laiche said. “We go around town to have luncheons and we also have travel opportunities as well. It is a great socialization program for people who are isolated or who feel lonely to build their strength and new friendships.”

Those interested in joining the group can call Laiche at 985-224-1253.

— By Raquel Derganz Baker