Local News

Mendon seniors build friendships and bone density with Bone Builders

By Mikie Perkins

Sue Veghte-Wilson, 80, and Marion Wright, 93, start their warmup exercises during a session of Bone Builders.

By Mikie Perkins

Twice a week, in the basement of the Mendon United Methodist Church, a group of seniors ranging in age from 50 to 93 gathers to stave off the effects of aging with exercise.

Sue Veghte-Wilson is an 80-year-old instructor for the Mendon group. She said she decided to become involved with the program seven years ago when her age really started creeping up on her and also the realization she was not aging gracefully.

“Before Bone Builders I was going downhill fast,” she said. “I just didn’t exercise.”

Veghte-Wilson didn’t just start going to Bone Builders as a participant, though. She became an instructor and now leads a core class of about 15 members at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

“I attended an instructor certification class at Christ the King church to learn the exercises and re-certify annually to continue teaching,” said Veghte-Wilson. “There are also two other ladies in the class who are instructors and friends, and although I usually take the lead, the three of us work together to make sure everyone gets through all the different exercises,” she said.

Exercises include a thorough warmup, with slow stretching from the wrists to the ankles and everything in between. The true benefit of Bone Builders, though, is in the free weights each participant handles. Builders count through 12 slow repetitions of arm exercises with weights ranging from one to 10 pounds. Veghte-Wilson says weights are key to building bone density and said that despite the fact that some prescription medications help strengthen the skeletal system, nothing beats lifting weights.

“Strengthening what Mother Nature gave you is sometimes the best way of keeping you young,” she said. “Bone Builders gives seniors strength and balance they sometimes lose as they age, and osteoporosis is always a concern.”

Determining if there is a loss in bone density requires a Bone Mineral Density test, or BMD, and involves a body scan comparable to an X-ray. Test results are compared to the peak bone mineral density of a 30-year-old adult. A T-score of zero means your BMD is equal to the normal density of a healthy young adult. Differences between your BMD and that of a healthy young adult are measured in units called standard deviations. The more standard deviations below zero, indicated as negative numbers, the lower your bone density is and the higher the risk of fracture.

Two attendees from the Mendon group, George and Marion Wright, have been married more than 60 years and say Bone Builders has been great for them both. Marion, the oldest participant at 93, said she had no choice but to keep active after a double hip replacement. Her husband George, who is 90 years young and one of only two men in the class, said he likes going because it helps him stay in shape.

“I retired a long time ago,” said Wright, “and it’s a necessity to maintain myself, maintain my agility.”

Begun in 1995 by the Massachusetts Department of Pubic Health, Bone Builders is a osteoporosis-prevention program that is keeping seniors balanced, strong and agile. Bone Builders classes are free of charge and available throughout the state. For more information about how to certify as an instructor or to join a group, call Patricia Facey, at Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) at 802-774-8220 ext. 102

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