Writing, moving, playing and fellowship mark Wellness Wednesdays | CraigDailyPress.com

Writing, moving, playing and fellowship mark Wellness Wednesdays

Wednesday's activities at The Journey at First Baptist are part of Northwest Colorado VNA's Aging Well programs — with help from CNCC

Michael Neary

— As about 20 people stepped from side to side, fitness instructor Tammy Workman shouted out a question, asking someone how a friend or relative is doing, or asking how a recent trip unfolded.

The group was doing movement exercises at The Journey at First Baptist Church of Craig as part of Wellness Wednesday, part of the Aging Well programs, run by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. The Aging Well programs include various activities throughout Moffat and Routt counties.

"Anything to keep them moving is a positive encouragement for longevity of life," said Workman, of the VNA.

The movement exercises form one part of Wellness Wednesdays, which also include ample time to play games, socialize and participate in a memoir-writing group offered through Colorado Northwestern Community College.

VNA Aging Well coordinator Krystal Pankey has been working at her position for about two months, and said she's seeking feedback from the participants as she continues to develop the program.

"We're really working on growing," she said.

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The memoir-writing session, held in another part of the building, offered a very different sort of activity.

"I try to make it real non-intimidating," said instructor Nancy Loughran. "We have a lot of fun. We laugh a lot — and we're sad a lot."

Loughran said group members inevitably share a great deal about their lives, trekking together through all sorts of powerful, emotional territory. Sometimes the group starts with a prompt — April Fools' Day memories provided the impetus Wednesday, and sometimes, they simply begin to write.

As participants talked about their writing, they spoke with a kind of joy that flowed not only from the act of writing, but also from the way that other people listen.

"You hear people saying, 'My dad and my grandpa used to tell such neat stories, and I wish I'd have written them down,'" said Phyllis Bingham, one of the participants. "So I wrote all about my background, my ancestors and my own family."

Bingham said she lost her husband about seven-and-a-half years ago, and explained the way sharing her writing has yielded both comfort and creativity.

"It helped me through a real rough time," she said.

Lois Stoffle said she'd often write stories and read to her husband in the nursing home, where he was staying. Her husband died in January.

"When I was reading to him there, one day," she explained, "somebody was walking past, or wheeling past, his room, and said, 'What was that you were saying about a dog?' and I said, 'Come on in, and I'll read you this story.'"

Eventually, more people came into the room as she read stories about her childhood.

"It was triggering memories for them," Stoffle said. And so she began her own memoir-writing class, which she still conducts at Sandrock Ridge Care & Rehabilitation.

Stefka White, another participant, said she's written hundreds of stories, at least some of which were inspired by the lives of her parents.

"I guess you'd call them Christian survivors of the Holocaust from Eastern Europe," she said. "I realized they had one heck of a story. At first I kind of went round and round because a lot of people said, 'Oh, they're too dark,' but I thought, 'This is a unique story.'"

Eventually, as White continued to write, she found her writing traveled from her mother's life to her own. White said her stories have appeared in the Waving Hands Review, published by CNCC.

"We do all have different stories," said participant Bonnie Villard, as she contemplated the group's body of work.

In another part of The Journey at First Baptist Church, a game of pinochle was anchoring people's attention.

"It's mostly about the fellowship," said Walt Stevens, one of the people playing, who said he also takes part in the exercising.

"We do give free lessons for pinochle," he said. "A lot of old players come in who played years ago, and we'll sit down with them a couple of times and get them into it and get them playing again."

It's that sort of social interaction Wellness Wednesdays are designed to cultivate, whether the interaction occurs in a game of cards, in a deft step during a movement exercise or in the interaction between a writer and a reader, sharing a memory that unleashes a whole world that's suddenly returned to light.

Wellness Wednesdays run from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Journey at First Baptist Church of Craig.

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.