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Senior fitness class provides exercise, socialization for disabled brothers

Erv and Ray Schlichting are beloved regulars at Sherwood YMCA program.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Erv Schlichting, right, and his younger brother Ray, left, exercise at the Sherwood Regional Family YMCA, along with aide Wanjiru Nduku, center.They might be the most popular kids in the class.

Erv and Ray Schlichting are regular attendees at a SilverSneakers Fitness program, designed to keep seniors active and healthy, at the Sherwood Regional Family YMCA. The two brothers both live with cognitive impairments that prevent them from leading fully independent lives. Since February, Ray said, they have resided in a group home managed by Bethesda Lutheran Communities in Tualatin.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, a person from the Schlichtings' support staff drives them to the YMCA for their morning class.

“They look forward to coming here,” said Wanjiru Nduku, who accompanied them this Tuesday.

Erv is 72 years old, while Ray said he will be turning 61 soon. The older brother doesn't say too much, but he seems to always have a smile on his face. Ray has a bad hip and difficulty walking, so the SilverSneakers class is important for him to stay in shape.

“I like the exercises,” Erv said.

Ray agreed: “It helps with the muscles.”

Ray said his older brother Bob encouraged him and Erv to start going to the SilverSneakers class for exercise. He and Erv both said they like the class and have made friends there.

“Better than staying at home,” Ray said.

The Schlichting brothers received warm greetings from their classmates as they entered the studio Tuesday.

“Oh my gosh, I love them,” said Tracy Quirk, who leads the class, when asked about the brothers. “They just bring a spirit into the class, an energy.”

She added, “The class adores them as well.”

SilverSneakers provides not only an opportunity for seniors to exercise — moving their legs and arms, lifting light weights, working with exercise balls and resistance cords — but is a way to socialize as well, Quirk said.

“For some, this might be the only outing,” she said. “You make connections. There are good friendships that have formed. We also go out to eat afterwards every once in a while. So it's just not exercise — you definitely get the social.”

SilverSneakers has become part of the Schlichting brothers' routine, Nduku said. It's far from their only opportunity to get out and move, socialize and exercise their minds, she said, but it's one that they enjoy a lot.

“They are fun,” she said of the brothers. “They are a lot of fun.”

SilverSneakers membership is open to group retirees and seniors on certain Medicare plans.

“I'm a huge advocate for this program,” Quirk told The Times in an email. “I have the most amazing people in the Classic class I teach. They are all fun, inspirational and hardworking.”

For more information, visit the Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness website or inquire with the Sherwood YMCA, reachable by phone at 503-625-9622 and located at 23000 S.W. Pacific Hwy.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Erv Schlichting is greeted by a fellow participant at a SilverSneakers Fitness class held at the Sherwood Regional Family YMCA.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
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