By Sarrah Peters
While attending Alabama Power’s Elevate marketing conference, YMCA of the Coosa Valley Executive Director LeRoy Falcon was confronted with the question of “Who are you serving?”
When asked to identify the trends the YMCA’s operation was seeing in attendance, Falcon noted that the majority of YMCA members were seniors.
“For us, the answer was, if the seniors are responding to our product, why don’t we get better at serving them?” said Falcon.
This re-evaluation changed the YMCA’s direction. Instead of trying to bring in a new population, the organization began looking at what programs could benefit the local senior population.
As people grow older, the effects of less healthy lifestyles start causing health issues, including an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, arthritis, aches and pains and a lack of flexibility.
“It occurred to me that the reason why we are continuing to reach that target audience is because we have specific programs that meet those needs,” said Falcon.
The YMCA already has several classes, including Joint Ventures and water-based workouts that are easier on the joints, that serve people with arthritis.
The YMCA is also starting the Rock Steady Boxing class, which is specifically designed to help slow the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.
“The act of hitting those bags and doing those exercises really helps slow the progression of the disease down,” said Falcon.
Falcon said that he has over 20 people on a waiting list for Rock Steady Boxing.
Although some of the existing programs can serve those with cancer, the YMCA is looking to incorporate more programs that can help those fighting the disease with the physical and emotional struggles they face. Falcon has reviewed existing programs targeted to those with cancer to effectively implement these workout models.
However, Falcon wants to reassure the community that the YMCA will continue to strive to serve younger populations as well. Youth sports programs, summer camp and swimming lessons will continue.
“The Y is one of the very few non-profits in our community that has to compete in a competitive market, so reinventing ourselves and looking for those opportunities to collaborate with the medical community is going to be a key and critical component for the future success of the Y locally as we look to expand our programs and grow our membership,” said Falcon.
In the spirit of medical collaboration and offering new services to the community, the YMCA has partnered with the James M. Barrie Center to offer restorative yoga to children who have been victims of sexual abuse and their families.
“The concept of this, from the child’s perspective, is to reconnect them to their bodies with a more positive image, which is often sacrificed when they’ve been the victim of a sexual abuse situation,” said Falcon. “Their parents get to participate in the program with them as well.”
Counselors remain in the classroom to provide mental health support if needed. Participants are referred to the program by the Barrie Center. The classes began recently.
“What we learned through just the first couple of classes that we’ve already taught is that while it was enjoyed by the children, it had a profound impact on the parents,” said Falcon. “They are discovering that for the first time in many years, because of the stress and trauma, they actually slow down and breathe. It’s healing for not only the children but for the family members as well.”
For more information, contact the YMCA at 256-547-4947 or visit the organization at 100 Walnut Street in Gadsden.