When Dave Stenberg retired from Nebraska Extension, he started exercising at the Orthman Community YMCA.
He knew the health benefits of regular exercise and started a regular routine of going to the YMCA at 6:30 a.m. each weekday.
After he exercises, he sits down to visit over a cup of coffee with fellow YMCA members for another important and often overlooked tool for better health – socialization.
Spending time with others reduces the potential for social isolation among people of all ages as well as symptoms of depression, cognitive decline and other diseases.
Dave will turn 80 next June, and he is looking forward to his free Golden Membership at the YMCA and continued good health.
He enjoys the time spent with the 8 a.m. coffee crowd after his hour-and-a-half workout.
“I didn’t drink that much coffee until they lead me astray after retirement,” Dave joked.
Besides enjoying the social time, Dave said his YMCA coffee friends keep him accountable to exercising.
“You are accountable to the other people in the group by just being there,” he said.
Pat Longly, a retired teacher, starts her exercise routine at 7 a.m. and usually rides the NU step or another indoor bike at the YMCA followed by time on the weight machines.
She also generally joins the 4-10 others who meet up for coffee at 8 a.m. Her husband, Jim, sometimes joins as well.
“I just enjoy the friendship and being able to share what we are doing,” she said.
They often share volunteer opportunities, and Pat has found volunteers in the group for the children’s museum she started in Lexington.
“We just help each other and support each other,” she said. “Some spouses have died over the years, so we’ve supported each other that way, too.”
Another coffee group meets at about 10:30 a.m. at the YMCA.
Jim Foster, who is 81, joins the group after walking several laps around the YMCA’s indoor track.
His original purpose of going to the YMCA was to exercise, but he enjoys the social time just as much.
“It’s just fun to sit there and visit and talk about sports, fishing and hunting,” he said.
Peg & Randy Carpenter enjoy coffee at the YMCA with friends after their 7:30 a.m. workouts.
Randy is a retired teacher and faithfully exercises at the YMCA each weekday. He and Peg enjoy the variety of people they meet and visit with at the YMCA.
Peg said the social part of their YMCA experience is just as important as their physical exercise.
“It keeps us socializing, and that’s important for us as we get older for our mental health,” she said.
In addition to offering exercise and free coffee, the YMCA encourages seniors to stay connected with free social events, such as the recent Tacos y Trivia event and the upcoming Soup & Scrabble in February.