On the Horizon: A New Partnership with Concordia University's Center for Gerontology

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By West Cook YMCA

A key to broadening the reach of the West Cook YMCA and providing member value is the extension of Y programing beyond the doors of the Marion Street headquarters, according to West Cook YMCA President and CEO Phillip Jiménez.

"I'm really excited about an opportunity to establish a new partnership with Concordia University's Center for Gerontology.

"We're working directly with the Center to develop programming specifically for seniors. There's much more to an active lifestyle than bingo and cruises," he said.

Lydia Manning, Associate Professor of Gerontology and Director of Graduate Studies at the Center for Gerontology, believes the Center is uniquely qualified to work closely with the West Cook YMCA.

"There's a natural synergy between what's happening with the Y's healthy living and aging programs and the Center. Given that we have researchers, educators and students, we can offer significant support to the Y's programming," she said.

The Center has received grants from the Kott Gerontology Foundation to develop programming. Recently, the Center named John Holton Director of the program.

First on the agenda is creating an Aging Well Initiative, a service-based practice which will allow the West Cook YMCA deeper access to the community. Fitness programs, like the Y's Silver Sneakers for active seniors, can be held at Concordia as well as the Y, and Concordia also will provide educational programs on healthy aging.

Another focus will be programming on resilience building for seniors. Using mindfulness training techniques such as meditation combined with concrete ideas for stress reduction, clinicians from Concordia will work with senior members of the West Cook YMCA.

Further down the line, Manning says that the Center hopes to partner with the YMCA to capture the spirit of volunteer efforts in the community. "We're talking about creating a volunteer hub at the West Cook YMCA. It would be a program dedicated to intergenerational service opportunities, making it a great place for later-in-life volunteering," she explained.

Jiménez sees these new senior programs as part of the West Cook YMCA's focus on the value of members at all ages.

"People of all ages need to have a healthier, more welcoming view of aging. Our idea is to embrace this journey through life and have a sense of being connected. We think this partnership with Concordia's Center for Gerontology will provide a significant value for our members," he said.

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