12 Oct 23 - Resident stories

Aquaman — making a splash

Thursdays at 10:30am there’s a buzz of excitement at the Summerset on Cavendish swimming pool as a group of residents gathers for their lively weekly Aqua Fit class, expertly guided by one of their own.

Neil Harrison, who lives at the village with his wife, Carol, generously volunteered to lead the class after the staff member who used to run it left the village. Despite being a newcomer to teaching Aqua Fit, Neil's commitment to his daily swims served as a solid foundation, giving him the confidence to embark on the new role. The class has been popular from the get-go. “On the first day we had 9 people attend,” says Neil. “We now have 13, which is about the maximum that we can have comfortably.”

Word about the class has spread and the residents are keen for more sessions. Neil is relaxed about the idea, but is a keen advocate for exercising in water, especially for seniors. “I began swimming daily when we moved here, as the pool is so close. You lose a third of your body weight in water, so it is kind on your joints, especially your knees and hips,” Neil explains. “Two or three attendees have mentioned just how good their body feels after the exercises. One participant who is diabetic has told me that he tests his sugar levels before and after the class and post-class his sugar points are about 3 to 4 points lower – if that is down to the exercise then that’s great news!”

Teaching aqua aerobics might be new for him, but Neil is no stranger to exercise. As a volunteer firefighter for 17 years, Neil took part in the fitness competitions held each year between the North and South Island volunteers. “We have always been an active family. Carol and our daughter, Belinda, were keen on gymnastics, and our son, Nigel, did motocross. He was in the Junior Championships. We always seemed to be travelling from race to race.”

To gain inspiration to teach the Aqua Fit class, Neil and Carol headed off as spectators to classes held at the Dudley Park Aquatic Centre in Rangiora and the QEII Recreation and Sport Centre in Christchurch. “We needed some ideas about routines and equipment!” Neil laughs. “We probably do about 20 to 22 exercises in the class. Pool noodles are really useful, and Summerset has bought us some dumbbells.”

Positioned outside the pool, Neil demonstrates the moves, while assuring everyone that there's no pressure to complete them all. “Just do what you can and, most importantly, have fun,” he advises. The positive feedback from the attendees, who are both men and women, speaks volumes about Neil's effective approach. As a result, the classes, originally scheduled for 30 minutes, have been extended to 45–50 minutes by popular demand. Clearly, Neil has made quite the splash, delivering a class that combines fitness and enjoyment seamlessly.

The couple, who have lived in the village for almost a year, say that the class has become a good way to meet more residents in the friendly village. “We absolutely love it here,” declares Carol, whose sister also lives in the village. “We couldn’t have been made more welcome by our neighbours. They took us along to our first Happy Hour and we go on bus trips and attend functions.” The pair had been looking for a retirement village for a long time, “And we had vowed to make the move while we were healthy and fit,” says Neil. “Our grandchildren in Dunedin love to come and visit us here. They especially enjoy using the pool!”

This is an article from the Spring 2023 edition of Summerset Scene magazine

Click here to read the full issue