Ensuring a Brighter Future

Press Play

Programs Offer "Empty Nesters" Healthy Skills, Fun & Friends


It’s only 6 in the morning but a lively game of basketball is already going on in the Y North Branch. The high-pitched squeaky sounds of tennis shoes running across the court echo throughout the gym.


On Tuesday and Friday mornings about a dozen middle-age men meet at 5:30 for a good game of basketball, a group that started off as one of several different Press Play programs at the Y. The basketball games give the participants a great work-out and a healthy dose of competition.


“It’s been a good experience,” says Dana Fredrickson. “It accomplishes several things for me at once. It’s a social outlet, and I get my work out in.”


Offered for men and women approaching or living in the “empty nest” stage, Press Play programs through the Y include basketball, dance, gardening, food facts & cooking, and group exercise & nutrition. Led by quality, encouraging facilitators, the sessions are designed for the participants to learn and develop new skills. Classes re-introduce people to the fun and benefits of keeping healthy and fit.


Fredrickson wasn’t exercising regularly until after he joined the group. Now between basketball days, the 49-year-old goes to the Wellness Center to run on the treadmill, and has participated in several 5K races. “Once I started feeling better, it started opening doors for me to other things I could try,” he says.


Press Play group members communicate and learn from facilitators – and from one another. An avid runner, Mark Carrk, age 51, joined the basketball group to improve his conditioning and meet some other guys. He’s always loved basketball but hadn’t played competitively since his 30s. He has enjoyed getting back into the game.


While the men play to win, winning isn’t the most important thing to them, Carrk says. During the game, it’s obvious participants encourage one another. They strive to keep each other on the positive side of competition. “For me personally, it’s fun all of the time,” Carrk says. “When I step over the line and feel too competitive, I can pull myself back in. No one gets too upset during the games.”


Press Play groups are free to Y members and non-members. During the programs, participants get free access to the Y. The sessions provide skill instruction and development, hands-on activities and a chance to connect with others. In the various programs, participants learn and practice modern exercise and dance routines, enjoy planting in a garden, gain knowledge about foods and how they affect the body and cook nutritious dishes.


Ken Schultz has played organized basketball since middle and high school. In college he joined pick-up games whenever he could. Since the 56-year-old began the Y’s Press Play basketball program last August, he’s been regularly shooting baskets and running up and down the court. “Basketball is my favorite sport and pastime, so I’m lucky to get out there and play and move around,” Schultz says.


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2012