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Fitness rules at Stuhr Center

Beaverton's facility 'for adults 55 and better' and its supervisor are dedicated to older adults' well-being
by: Janie Nafsinger “Fitness is kind of the word of the moment,” says Linda Jo Enger, supervisor of Beaverton’s Elsie Stuhr Center. The center reopened Sept. 18 after a major remodeling project that includes doubling the size of the workout area.

Way back in the mid-1980s, Linda Jo Enger was hard-pressed to find older adults who thought yoga was real exercise.

Yoga classes? At Beaverton's senior center? 'Forget it - they thought it was juju,' Enger says with a laugh. 'Now we have eight yoga classes.'

Yes, attitudes have changed with the times at the Elsie Stuhr Center, where Enger, the center's supervisor, has worked for 27 years. For one thing, this facility - part of the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District - is no longer referred to as a senior center. 'Recreation for adults 55 and better,' the Stuhr Center proclaims in its catalog listings.

And not just recreation - the center offers a slew of fitness programs for everyone's level, from Sit and Be Fit classes to Boomer Boot Camp to Zumba Gold dance exercise. There's also pilates, tai chi, qi gong 'and a meditation class with 15 people in it,' says Enger, who has been a Buddhist since the 1970s.

'People are really connecting to the mind/body thing. It all goes with what we offer here.'

The Stuhr Center's dedication to the physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing of its 55-and-older population has brought a number of honors. The center received the 2010 Governor's Senior Fitness Leadership Award for its evidence-based fitness program, specialized to serve all individuals - those who exercise while seated, experienced athletes and everyone in between.

The center also uses the Senior Fitness Test developed at California State University-Fullerton. The test evaluates the effectiveness of participants' exercise starting with a baseline measurement, so pinpointing the right exercise for each person is quicker to calibrate.

'We've seen people move up to the next level,' Enger says. 'The next thing you know they're lifting weights and using stretch bands. It's every level here.

'Fitness is kind of the word of the moment. We have lots of people who are really taking it seriously.'

'My life work'

Enger, 59, grew up in Beaverton after moving there from Portland's St. Johns neighborhood when she was 8. She remembers visiting retirement homes with her mother as part of an activity through their church.

'From age 3 on, I was drawn to old people,' she recalls. 'I always gravitated toward little old ladies who needed rides to the doctor.'

She attended the University of Oregon, took gerontology classes, married young (she and her husband, Jim, celebrated 40 years of marriage in June) and raised two children.

Enger joined the Stuhr Center staff in 1984, when she was 32. She was program manager for 10 years, then in 1994 became center supervisor.

The center reopened in September after a month-and-a-half-long closure for a major remodeling - its fifth renovation since Enger started working there. The project included expansion of the workout area, which will double in size to 2,400 square feet. The remodeling also includes a new lobby, additional parking and the return of the center's gift shop, which closed in February.

Seniors raised more than $175,000 to buy new fitness equipment, lobby furnishings and other items, Enger says.

When the center reopens, 'we'll will be back to about 70 fitness classes every week,' she says.

'I love the center. I feel it's the heart and soul of my career. I get more than I give. It really is my life work.'

DETAILS

What: The Elsie Stuhr Center, 'for adults 55 and better.'

Where: 5550 S.W. Hall Blvd., Beaverton.

Phone: 503- 629-6342.

Website: www.thprd.org