Sometimes the best instructors are volunteers. Bernie Powell teaches water aerobics at the Ponte Palmero Retirement Village in Cameron Park. For this 88-year-old former competitive swimmer, the program is a win-win situation.
“Seniors sometimes feel they’re not up to rigorous exercises with weights and such. But when they work out with water aerobics they find an activity perfect for their strength and ability. Moving slowly in the water produces little resistance, it’s quite easy to get started. Speeding it up develops more resistance which in turn produces greater joint and muscle strength. It is totally customized to the person. The residents really like that,” Powell said.
Ponte Palmero is a 24 acre retirement development by the Marshall Hospital complex near Cameron Park Drive and Highway 50. Constructed four years ago, the modern campus provides apartments, meals, utilities, cable, activities and support in three categories.
Independent Living is the program of one or two bedroom apartments known as duets. Assisted Living provides one or two bedroom apartments, and includes a staff of qualified caregivers to help when and where needed. Memory Care provides a secure environment and round-the-clock vital personal assistance to residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other memory-related issues.
For the past two years, the sales and marketing manager has been Monica Silver, a popular and energetic executive.
“This is such a perfect place for seniors,” she enthused. “Our residents have a massive clubhouse with an outside warm water pool, gourmet meals with open dining hours, walking paths, fitness center, weekly housekeeping and interior/exterior maintenance.” She smiled. “And, there’s no buy-in or home purchase required.”
The activity calendar is packed. Clubs and groups with interests in wine, writing, games, fitness, bridge, hiking, nature — an almost endless list — meet on a schedule. Theater outings to Three Stages and other venues are well attended.
“It’s kind of amazing,” mused Silver. “They have all the options, including the option of doing nothing.”
Bernie and Helen Powell are residents at Ponte Palmero. He was a swimmer in college, then spent 20 years in the military, retiring as a Lt. Colonel. After that he spent some years designing stores and installing lighting. But the personable coach wanted time to enjoy retirement and pursue his hobbies, including graphic arts.
In the Army, Powell served two tours of Vietnam as one of JFK’s “Kennedy 500,” officers handpicked to advise the South Vietnamese Army in the early 1960s. Later he commanded a U.S. Army combat unit in the Dominican Republic military action in 1965.
“It wasn’t a walk in the park. The U.S. sustained 28 casualties,” Bernie said.
Helen was a registered nurse for many years with a specialty in geriatrics. She assists in the water aerobics exercises.
“It’s so helpful to seniors. Builds up their strength so they’re less apt to fall. Gives them confidence too,” Helen said.
“Gravity is sometimes the enemy. But in the water, the body is more buoyant, relieving the aches and pains of joints and allowing for greater motion. We keep it simple, we set a pace that fits the individual. The workout is about an hour long. We work on upper body and lower body. Water soothes and provides perfect resistance,” Bernie pointed out.
Silver added, “I’ve seen three residents leave their wheelchairs and resume walking, because of the water aerobics program. It’s really effective.”
When not volunteering in his twice-weekly aerobics course, Bernie stays busy in his graphic design hobby. It’s a life-long interest for him. He recalls taking courses at the Art Institute in Chicago during his high school years.
Now using the computer program Photoshop, he design posters, manipulates photos, changes backgrounds and produces “amazing promotional and announcement posters and handouts,” according to Silver. “He really knows what he’s doing.”
The designer publishes his graphic designs on a large printer measuring 13 by 19 inches. A single poster can require four separate printed pages which he flawlessly assembles to create one seamless piece.
Coach Powell conducts the water aerobics course twice weekly on Tuesday and Thursday. During the summer season, mornings are best. In winter, the class is held in the afternoon.
Bernie and Helen Powell have been married 57 years and have four children.
Ponte Palmero is located at 3081 Ponte Morino Drive in Cameron Park. Monica Silver can be reached at 530-677-9100.