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Theresa Bury Van Maerssen teaches Robin Woods Sit and Be Fit class techniques at Edgemont Park House. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

By ROBIN WOODS

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ROBIN WOODS

For Montclair Local

Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants, and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. 

Got something you think should be in Robin’s Nest? Write to us at culture@montclairlocal.news.

Some people age like fine wine, but in my case I’m fighting the aging process with much whining. I wanted to find out more about Senior Activities at Edgemont Park House. Katie York, Director of Senior Services/Lifelong Montclair met with me before my visit to give me an overview of the program, which opened in April 2016 to fulfill the Town Council’s commitment to maintain an age-friendly community. 

At what age you considered a senior? It’s a somewhat fluid concept, with 55+ the benchmark for programs you can attend when you retire or have a little more time on your hands as a “young senior.” Katie said, “We tend to only think of chronological age, but it’s a combination of your age in years, your physical age, cognitive age, maturity level and cultural age.” There are no age restrictions for participation at the park house, and all are welcome at the intergenerational programs.

Following up on a request from reader Jeffrey Dimmerman that I visit with the seniors at what he considers to be Montclair’s de facto senior center, he told me that his mother, Judith Taylor sat on the first Senior Citizen Advisory Council in the 1990’s. Jeffrey frequently attends programs at Edgemont, and wanted me to see for myself what goes on there. 

I was ready to mingle, meet some of the seniors, and participate in the Sit and Be Fit class. Don’t let the “sit “ part of the title fool you. It’s an upbeat, muscle group and cardio workout series of classes for all ability levels. Jeffrey and his “friendly rival” Jerry Cohen were the only men in this class, with Jerry jokingly saying that, “I’m the good looking one, and most men in our age group are either dead or at the YMCA on Park Street.” Instructor and personal trainer Theresa Bury Van Maerssen leads the Tuesday 11:30 a.m. class, which begins with warm up stretches and deep breathing. Perfect posture was also stressed, as she showed us how to center ourselves on our chairs for good ergonomics. Theresa reminded us to “Be as safe and strong as you can be, and remember that you burn off more calories by smiling.” There was an elegance and grace to the class, with almost balletic movements. 

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Jerry Cohen attends a Be Fit class at Edgemont Park House. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

Theresa showed me how to use a Thera Band., a latex band used for light strength training, low impact exercises. It’s easy to use by simply holding it up in front of you at chest level, and winding it around in each hand while stretching from right to left, or front to back. The blue band she suggested that I use at home has a resistance level of 5.8-8.5 pounds, which was perfect for me. I can hook the band, which is 5′ long and 4” wide around a door knob, and pull on it to work on my arms and prevent the bat wings that start appearing in women over age 40 in the bicep and triceps areas. I’ll be using my bands often to tone myself up safely, as I’ve been known to drop 2.5 pound weights on my feet. 

Take time to stop by and participate in the activities, have a cup of complimentary coffee or tea, sit in with the Knitting Circle, or enjoy a catered lunch during a Learn and Ask session. Be sure to say hello to Linda Tate at the front desk in the Park House. She is a font of knowledge, keeps everything going there, and can refer you to more senior resources in town. Being a senior doesn’t seem so bad to me now. 

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Wendy reads to Robin, who gets noticeably happier. NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

THE OPTION TO BE HAPPY

After reading a post on social media by Wendy Dolber, Montclair author and Belief-Centered Coach, I had to meet her in person. She’s been leaving copies of her book “The Guru Next Door” all around town for people to pick up for free to read and find out more about the Option Method she uses with clients. It’s a work of fiction based on the life and teachings of her friend, the late Bruce Di Marsico. Di Marsico created the Option Method in 1960 to help people to be happy, and main character Annie is a young, troubled girl who was profoundly unhappy and could not find a way to change her mindset. The book describes and explains his work, using dialogue that Wendy created to weave a story. It’s a pretty good read, to boot. 

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READ: ROBIN’S NEST; A DRINK AND A FLOWER, FOR THE NEW YEAR

READ: ROBIN’S NEST; COFFEE, CHABAD AND HANNUKAH

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I was skeptical and confused by the belief that people learn to be unhappy from childhood on and adopt their parents’ way of thinking of things. Wendy, who first studied Psychology and wanted to be a therapist, trained in the the Option Method instead and loves teaching, lecturing and working with clients, helping them get out of their unhappiness. She is not a licensed therapist, and does not want her sessions and virtual seminars to be considered as mental health treatment. Wendy sat down with me and did a 10-minute sample mini dialogue. I shared that I feel that I do not have a strong enough 10 network from my immediate family. I’m not unhappy about it all the time, but it sometimes makes me feel alone and lost.

She started out by asking me, ”What are you unhappy about?” as a way of drilling down to what I wanted to talk about. After explaining, I was surprised and thrown off when she asked why I believed that it was bad for me not to be unhappy. I have never thought that it was bad to be unhappy, nor do I see myself as a generally unhappy person. The dialog was getting deep, and I couldn’t come up with an answer. As we continued, I shut down a bit after her final question for discussion, “What are you afraid would happen if you were not unhappy?” The obvious answer would be that I would just be happy, but I caught myself getting ready to be a bit snarky.

It’s unique to meet someone who says that money is not important to her, and just wants to send her book out into the universe. Wendy is gentle, a good listener, and one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. There’s a calmness about her that’s infectious, and her smile can make your day. She wants everyone to know that “Happiness is freedom to the nth degree.” Be well, be fit and happy trails to you, dear readers until the next time.

In this column:

  • Katie York
    Director of Senior Services/Lifelong Montclair
    205 Claremont Ave.
    973-509-4967
  • Edgemont Park Senior Activities
    208 Valley Road
    973-744-3278
  • Wendy Dolber
    973-714-2800
    wendydolber.com
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