JCC retirement reboot: community-centered connectivity meets functional health benefits

February 13, 2020

Other News

Ron Nash and Tom Purcell.

The Simon Family JCC and JFit combo package is more than a cultural community center and fully loaded fitness center studio with all kinds of bells and whistles. A beautiful setting, country club perks, yoga, senior programs, festivals, café, and supreme member care make it hard to know what to call it, other than a second home for many. The extremely client-focused and dedicated staff give ‘the J’ its unique family feel.

Some personal trainers at the JCC cultivate long relationships with their clients. Over the years, they are sure to experience life’s changes and challenges together.

Under the direction of Tom Purcell, Simon Family JCC Wellness and Membership director, the staff works to meet members where they are physically and psychologically, while implementing a realistic plan to help them progress to where they want to be.

“When our clients retire, they generally look at going into another chapter in life,” says Purcell. “Some of my clients are more active in retirement than when they had regular jobs. They need to maintain stamina throughout the day, so we focus on endurance and strength.”

Retirement presents a reboot reward and challenge for seniors. The JCC recognizes this transition and stays at the top of its game assessing members’ physical and emotional needs. Most of the programs, machines, and functional moves used in training sessions focus on some combination of: stamina, endurance, strength, posture, balance, step safety, and stretching. In addition, classes such as yoga, Pilates, and aquatics appeal to a diverse age group and provide the socialization that’s essential for any stage, but especially challenging later in life when structure has been removed from the picture.

The J’s connection to the Sandler Family Campus’ lobby, known as the Cardo, and the Cardo Café, facilitates socialization—a valued resource for anyone on the retirement spectrum. Most days find members lunching or visiting over coffee…or just chatting. Busy parents and career seekers hang there, too, creating an energetic mix.

Meet Bethany Spence, the fitness firecracker who never met a pair of neon-colored leggings she didn’t like. Spence’s goal when training retired clients, or anyone over a certain age, is geared toward injury prevention and independent lifestyle.

“I train a client in her 70s and when we started, her goal was to ‘lose her bingo wings.’ After learning about her lifestyle and concerns about prolonged independent living, we focused on getting her arms in sleeveless dress shape and exercises that would help the aging process.

“For example, we work on strong posture, balance, step safety, as well as several hip strengthening exercises and stretches,” says Spence. “Any exercise strategy focusing on injury prevention is crucial in an older demographic.

I receive comments all the time about our staff’s great attitude and how welcomed they feel here,” says Spence. “I think our jobs as personal trainers are to really be present. Some of our members have been members from day one and have a lot to offer in terms of history, experience, knowledge, etc. Personally, I like to stand out. My personality shows through in my outfits. It’s an easy conversation starter, but also a way to eliminate the intimidation people feel at the gym. When I come across as approachable, a member finds it easier to initiate a conversation about my shoes. Then they ask about exercise since we’re already talking.”

Making fitness a part of daily life is the key to success. Routine and structure is where the J really steps up.

“If you don’t show up a few days on your usual days, the J family notices, cares, and checks in,” says Purcell.


Tom Purcell’s Stamina Cocktail—
combination of strength, nutrition and social

• 0 to 60 minutes of cardio a day (Getting Heart Rate up 70 to 80 % of your max 5 days per week).
• Total body strength training 2 to 3 days per week.
• Eat large in the morning, Medium at lunch, and small at night (Nothing processed at night). Drink at least 64 oz or ½ your body weight in ounces.
• Join a group to meet weekly. Join a walking group and walk a 5k. Find a group or others that share your interest, OR, someone who is looking for a new fitness challenge.


- Lisa Richmon

Letter to the Editor