CROSBY -- When Janice Rogers first started the arthritis therapy program in the Hallett Community Center pool, the 85-year-old Deerwood woman was so stiff from arthritis she couldn't balance on her own in the water, and spent most of the class holding on to the sides of the pool for safety.
But that was six weeks ago. She is now more flexible, her arthritis doesn't hurt as much and she's practically swimming circles around her group members in the pool, even though she's the oldest one in the bunch.
"I think I've got 20 years on most of you," said Rogers with a laugh, as she teased others in the class.
The Arthritis Foundation aquatic program is taught by Jenny Smith, member services coordinator at the Crosby center. She attended sessions on water therapy for arthritis at the Courage Center in Apple Valley and started the first set of classes in February.
Participants in the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program at Hallett Community Center in Crosby laughed as they did the "hokey-pokey" in the pool Thursday, an exercise to help them ease the pain of their arthritis.
The purpose of the program is to help relieve the chronic pain arthritis sufferers feel by promoting movement in the warm water of the pool. The actions increase their strength, relieve pain and can improve their ability to perform daily activities. The water helps to minimize stress on the joints as they exercise.
"It's been amazing," said Smith. "When a lot of them started, they had a lot of fear of the water. As they've progressed, I've seen the benefits it's provided for them."
The closest facility that also offers the arthritis therapy program is in Little Falls.
"It makes me feel so good," said Dotty Hayes, Crosby. "You always see a smile on our faces because of Jenny. She is tremendous."
"Going up and down stairs is easier now. Even combing my hair is a whole lot easier." -- Verna Hill Participates in Arthritis Foundation aquatic program in Crosby
Hayes and her sister, Verna Hill, also of Crosby, both participate in the therapeutic program. When Hill tried regular water aerobics in the past, the movements hurt her feet because of her arthritis. This water program has even returned some of her mobility.
"Going up and down stairs is easier now," said Hill. "Even combing my hair is a whole lot easier."
The program also provides people suffering from arthritis a chance to get to know others who have the same chronic pain. Plus, they have a lot of fun.
"We're just like a family," said Hayes. "You just get to know each other so well. Jenny makes us feel like a family."
Joyce and Roger Amundson drove twice a week from their home in Garrison to attend the water therapy program. They both said the therapy is relaxing.
Any adult with any type of arthritis can take the aquatic class. It is not necessary to know how to swim. People with severe joint problems or who have had joint surgery are encouraged to check with their doctors about the need for precautions.
The next session will run 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, March 27-May 3, at the Hallett Community Center pool in Crosby.
Cost of the six-week program is $35. Scholarships are available. For more information or to register, call Jenny Smith or Melissa Aldridge at (218) 546-2616.
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