On first glance, it seems like Mera Cosgrove is just playing games at Magda’s Adult Care.
On a recent Monday, Cosgrove, 31, tosses a balloon to three residents of the Vancouver adult family home, all older than 75, as they sit in wheelchairs and raise their arms to bump the balloon back to her. Frank Sinatra croons in the background.
The residents lightly punch her hands. She playfully arm-wrestles them, getting them to push her arm downward as she resists. And the trio dances with Cosgrove while seated in their wheelchairs. She also stretches their shoulders, arms and legs in the 40 minutes she spends with them.
But she’s not playing around. What Cosgrove provides is low-key exercise and stretching that the elderly residents wouldn’t get on their own, but can improve their quality of life. The class is called Sit and Be Fit.
“It’s a way for them to use their body in a way that they don’t normally use it, in a safe manner,” Cosgrove said. “If you’re sitting in front of a TV all day and not moving, the mind doesn’t get stimulated. This gets them to think, and they’re able to stimulate their brain to prevent decline. It kind of fights the aging process.”
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Find out more information about Mera’s Warriors at meraswarriors.com
Cosgrove is a holistic coach and fitness trainer, who runs Mera’s Warriors. She works with senior residents like the ones at Magda’s Adult Care, and has a certification for that speciality through the Functional Aging Institute. Cosgrove does senior training at five different nursing homes in the Vancouver area.
Cosgrove’s classes for seniors are tailored to what they “can and can’t do based on their medical limitations,” she said. And Cosgrove also has to make sure the classes are engaging.
“I kind of have to be creative with what they can do,” Cosgrove said.
Lilia Magda, owner of Magda’s Adult Care, said her home also offers art therapy, music therapy and other games and activities to residents.
“They love Mera. She’s very outgoing. She brings that little sunshine for them,” Magda said.
One of the residents Cosgrove works with at Magda’s is Tauno Alanko, a 99-year-old who grew up on a farm in La Center, said his son, Gary. Tauno Alanko led an active life, since he was raised on a farm, and as an adult he also was partial to gardening and hiking.
Cosgrove said that despite some recent medical setbacks, Alanko still benefits from stretching and exercise.
“It’s certainly beneficial in keeping him strong,” his son said.
Cosgrove said her main goal is keeping the residents moving, and providing them with the best quality of life possible.
“A lot of them are in wheelchairs most of the day,” she said. “That tends to round the back and create improper posture, which is bad for the lungs and everything.”
Cosgrove, who has been coming to Magda’s for about two years, said she draws inspiration from the residents she works with. She gets close to them, and starts to consider them family.
“I feel like I get more out of it than they do,” Cosgrove said. “It’s just the reward of seeing their faces light up and that smile of them being excited and being able to hit the ball or reach the ball. When I see them smile and happy, it really is rewarding for me.