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A Great Time to Be Silver in East Hampton

Thu, 04/27/2023 - 14:20
East Hampton Town celebrates its older adults with an annual birthday party at the senior center for those turning 90 years old.
Durell Godfrey

East Hampton Town recently announced Programs for the Aging, a new initiative within the town's Human Services Department that increases offerings aimed at the growing 60-plus demographic, members of which are tending to live longer, healthier, and more active lives.

The emphasis on wellness dovetails with the town's plans to construct a new senior citizens center on Abraham's Path in Amagansett, which will offer ample space, state-of-the-art facilities, and a considerable upgrade from the present center on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton, a building that is more than 100 years old.

An abundance of activities, educational programs, and clubs are aimed at meeting the needs and interests of older residents, Diane Patrizio, director of Human Services, said last month, noting that people 65 and older are projected to outnumber those under 18 by 2034, a first in American history.

Aging brings greater acceptance, and those with the highest satisfaction with aging have a 43-percent lower risk of dying from any cause over a four-year period compared with those who are the least satisfied, according to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study of 14,000 people over 50. Those more satisfied with aging have better cognitive function, a lower risk for diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease, and are more likely to engage in physical activity. Maintaining a sense of purpose, a physically and socially active lifestyle, and a willingness to try new activities or teach skills to others are keys to healthy aging, experts say.

To that end, Programs for the Aging, led by a dream team of professionals, has a wealth of offerings to maintain a healthy and limber body and mind.

For example, chair, floor, and afternoon yoga are distinct classes taught by Jaki Jackson, who has been teaching the ancient Hindu discipline for more than 60 years. Chair yoga happens on Mondays and Fridays, and floor yoga on Wednesdays, all at 10 a.m. at the existing senior citizens center; and afternoon yoga is at 3 on Wednesdays at Ashawagh Hall in Springs.

Margaret Ianacone, a licensed acupuncturist and certified nutrition consultant, has certifications in qigong and tai chi disciplines specializing in programs for senior citizens and cancer patients. Dr. Ianacone leads a healing circle on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at the Montauk Playhouse, another healing circle on Wednesdays and qigong on Thursdays, both at 10 a.m. at the senior citizens center, and another qigong session on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. at Ashawagh Hall.

There are myriad benefits in a meditation practice, another ancient discipline originating from India's Hindu tradition. In East Hampton Town, Lydia Burns leads mindfulness meditation on Mondays at 9:45 a.m. at the senior citizens center and at 1 p.m. at the Montauk Playhouse.

Oscar Giles, a high-ranking black belt, heads up a balance and self-defense class aimed at increasing self-esteem, conditioning, flexibility, strength, and stamina on Mondays at 12:30 p.m. at the senior citizens center. "It's not just about self-esteem — which is great — but self-efficacy in your personal movement," Councilman David Lys, who has a background in kinesiology and sports science, said of the class last month.

Derived from ballet, barre sculpt is a low-impact, high-intensity workout for nondancers, and the Human Services Department has that covered, too, with Kimberly Kluge's barre sculpt-and-stretch class on Thursdays at 11 a.m. at the senior citizens center.

Leisa Taylor, a certified Pilates instructor, dancer, and movement educator, is on a mission to inspire a healthier, more positive relationship with movement and the body. Her low-impact, mindful movement class takes place on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. at the senior citizens center. And Leigh Frankel, who works at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter, leads an osteoporosis prevention and stretching session on that day at 2 p.m. at Ashawagh Hall.

Participation in the classes "is picking up," Ms. Patrizio told the town board in March. The Covid-19 pandemic was difficult for everyone, she said, "but I think it was pretty hard on the 60-plus community. It's taken a while for things to pick up, but I really see the spirit coming back, and more people coming and being really excited about all the different classes."

"And, of course," she added, "when we get our new building and have more space, there will be room for a lot more to go on at the same time."

Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said this month that it is hoped that construction will begin in May 2024.

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