One of the founders of the Super Seniors, Jean Hoffman (seen above with John Hoffman), shares key moments and provides insight into this community engagement initiative that supports healthier lifestyles.
Healthy Monadnock: What was the genesis of the Super Seniors?
Jean Hoffman: You can trace our Super Seniors’ journey back to a meeting in March 2013 at Cheshire Medical Center, where we met to discuss new activities for the region’s older senior population, especially those over 70 in age. The group of about ten community elders was hosted by Healthy Monadnock staff members and hospital leaders. Dr. Rudy Fedrizzi suggested incorporating this age group in the September Clarence DeMar Marathon, patterned after the Keene Elm City Rotary’s DeMar Kids Marathon program.
Through the spring and summer we had ongoing discussions with the Keene Senior Center’s Executive Director Pegg Monahan and Keene Elm City Rotary members to organize and publicize the Senior DeMar program. Our first Senior DeMar Marathon had 30 “over-70’s” participating by either walking or running 25 miles over the summer and then completing the last 1.2 miles of the DeMar on race day, September 29, 2013.
HM: It must be rewarding to prepare for the race and then have the shared experience of finishing the DeMar together.
JH: Yes, but more rewarding are the personal stories. Sally Rinehart, a HM2020 Champion and the inaugural Senior Race’s first finisher said, “After a serious car accident I wasn’t sure I would ever run again. Finishing that first Senior DeMar run after a summer of training was the confidence boost I needed.” In 2014 Sally ran all 13.1 miles in the first Clarence DeMar Half-Marathon.
HM: So after that first race in 2013, you knew you could do more and involve more people?
JH: We knew we were on to something and organized a committee called the ‘Super Seniors”, to find other physical activity opportunities during the year, such as walks and a “field day” with assorted activities. We developed partnerships with Healthy Monadnock, Keene Senior Center, Keene Family YMCA, MoCo Arts, and the Keene City Parks and Recreation Department.
HM: How have you used these partnerships to expand the Super Seniors program?
JH: Since 2014 we have organized bi-weekly walks (some in really nasty Spring weather!) near the YMCA, trails near Cheshire Medical Center (lead by medical staff members), a walk through Keene with the mayor, annual Cheshire Medical 5K Walk/Run, walks along the Keene rail-trail, and walks around the Keene State College campus. In 2014 the program grew to 70 Super Senior participants and last year in 2015 100 Super Seniors participated in the last 1.2 miles of the DeMar! This year’s 2016 Super Seniors DeMar Marathon registration opens May 1.
HM: So Super Seniors can get started preparing for September’s Senior DeMar now. Can people still participate with Super Senior activities even if they aren’t interested in the DeMar?
JH: Certainly! In 2016, we added the “Super Seniors Dance Troupe” with weekly hour-long classes at MoCo Arts, instructed by Kristen Leach. There have been as many as 22 men and women participants, but there are about ten “regulars” at present. Our oldest dancer is 90-years-old and comes to Keene from Harrisville! MoCo provides the space at no-cost and the class is free to participants. Though no performances have been scheduled yet, we’re not totally eliminating that possibility.
We continue to think of new activities and are planning training walks for this year’s DeMar and another field day at the Keene Family YMCA.
If you or someone you know is looking for fun and fitness consider getting involved with the Super Seniors by visiting the Keene Senior Center, 70 Court Street, Keene or calling 603-352-5037.