The Y’s GoldFit programme has a reputation for being award-winning, and now thanks to Mel Engelbrecht, Centre Manager of The Y Hamilton, another award can be added to the trophy cabinet.

The Active Agers programme, a partnership between the Velodrome Cambridge and The Y Hamilton, was chosen as a finalist in the 2023 Sport & Active Recreation Awards for its outstanding contribution to the health and wellbeing of seniors in the Waikato community.

The programme aims to improve the physical, mental, and social aspects of ageing. The programme focuses on concentration, coordination, balance, strength, fitness, flexibility, confidence, and interaction. Mel has been supported by three volunteers whom she trained and qualified as Fitness Trainers through Skills Active/Te Mahi Ako: Sarah Chadwick, Tara Wilson, and Pam Taylor.

Over the last 13 years, the programme has grown from five members once a week in a church hall, to over 100 members attending nine classes a week at the velodrome. Active Agers is now the largest community recreation and fitness collaboration for senior citizens in the Waipa region.

How the Active Agers Fitness programme is changing the lives of seniors.

For many seniors, recreation and healthcare can be hard to access. These problems can affect their health and happiness.

  • Transportation. Many of our Active Agers do not have cars or cannot drive, and public transport can be expensive or inconvenient. To solve this problem, Active Agers has organised carpooling and a weekly Te Awa cycle group to (and from) velodrome classes via the Te Awa Riverride track..
  • Financial constraints. They often live on pensions or savings and may not be able to afford the fees for fitness and recreational services. To increase participation, the velodrome and The Y have discounted service fees, making the program more affordable and accessible.
  • Social isolation. Many live alone or have lost friends, relatives, or spouses. To create a sense of community and belonging, Active Agers has set up a personalised Facebook group, where seniors can connect, creating a truly inclusive environment.

The Velodrome team have been engaged and supportive, adjusting to cater to our seniors. For example, due to impaired hearing for many users, the Velodrome agreed to switch off the gym music during Pilates classes. To create a more welcoming and friendly environment, the velodrome plays 60s and 70s music on Mondays and Wednesdays for the Active Ager’s Circuit Classes. The Bikery Cafe now offers a discounted rate to the seniors for their coffees after class.

The partnership between the Velodrome and The Y has created many benefits for both parties, as well as for the senior citizens of the region. The Bikery Cafe has enjoyed high support from the Active Agers, who have their daily dose of Bikery treats and drinks after classes. The Velodrome is supported and promoted by the Active Agers as a valuable and non-discriminatory community centre. As Assessor and Senior Mentor Assessor, Mel has been able to professional develop, train and mentor new and upcoming trainers through Skills Active/Te Mahi Ako - Pam Taylor qualified at 73 years old!

But the most important benefit of the program is the positive impact it has had on the lives of the seniors who participate:

  • Increased fitness, strength, and a sense of well-being.
  • An increased sense of self, with more confidence and abilities to enjoy tasks and activities in their daily lives.
  • New friends and shared memorable experiences.

Here are some quotes from some of the participants, who have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the program and the team:

“You have designed various exercises and movements to ensure that we exercised core muscles, enhanced our strength and balance, and kept our hearts and brains working. Thank you so much for your efforts and enthusiasm. I also find your classes very useful and generated my energy while I am on chemotherapy!!” – Joy

“The Active Agers fitness and Pilates classes are more important to me than I can put into words. Mel’s extensive knowledge and amazing teaching ability is obvious from the first moment you start her classes. Old injuries or medical conditions are no barrier to participation, as she seamlessly adjusts movements on a case-by-case basis. We all feel safe in her capable hands. I have been attending the classes since 2013. It is entirely due to Mel’s tuition that my fitness and strength has increased beyond anything I could have imagined, despite having experienced a major heart mishap 6 years ago. The huge popularity of the classes illustrates just how exceptional it is. We are so grateful! Thanks Mel and the Velodrome!” - Helen

Active Agers is more than just a fitness programme. It is a community, a family, and a lifestyle. It is a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and inclusion. It is a shining example of how sport and activity can promote health and well-being for seniors and the whole community.

Huge congratulations must go to Mel and her team for all their massive mahi in creating and running this successful enterprise.